SCMP letter – F1 the right message for HK

The Editor
South China Morning Post

30th June 2011

Re: F1 race the last thing HK needs

Dear Sir

Respectfully your columnist’s concerns about the environmental and social impact of hosting a F1 race in HK are misguided.

First of all with proper planning disruption to local businesses can be minimised: pedestrian access can mostly be maintained during road closures and roads can be reopened overnight to allow deliveries and so on. Ultimately it is for a relatively short period of days whilst the immediate and long term positive economic impact to the local economy as a whole should far outweigh the downside from any disruption to a few.

To address the principle concern of pollution the fact is that Formula 1 cars themselves produce very little. In fact in an entire season of racing and testing each team’s cars will emit little more than 100 tons of CO2 (according to the international Carbon Disclosure Project Williams F1’s cars produced 106 tonnes of CO2 in 2009). To put that in perspective ABC news reported in 2008 that the Olympic torch for Beijing produced 5,500 tons of CO2: that is equivalent to the direct emissions of the entire Formula 1 World Championship and the World Rally Championship combined.

Ultimately to be the fastest in Formula 1 is closely correlated to being the most efficient; Formula 1’s manufacturers produce some of the most efficient engines on the planet so that the drivers may minimise the weight of the advanced biofuel they have to carry whilst benefiting from maximum power in the race. Development of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) or ‘hybrid’ technology in Formula 1 is already impacting wider automotive technology applications that results in dramatic increases in fuel economy (c.30%) with resultant reductions in CO2 emissions. So whilst Hong Kong residents may not be about to give up their cars, technology developed in Formula 1 may well help to ensure the cars they’re driving in ten years time are far less polluting and more efficient than if the development of such technologies were simply left to market forces.

Specifically considering the direct environmental impact of a race in Hong Kong surely pollution levels in Hong Kong would actually fall during the hosting of a Formula 1 race: the closure of some major streets for a few days would force people to take alternative means of (far less polluting) transport. The result might just be that a large number of Hong Kong residents discover the clean efficiency of travelling by the city’s public transport system or the even healthier benefits of walking (especially without so many choking fumes from the streets below).

Indeed, a Formula 1 street race could send exactly the right message and handled well even precipitate a public revolution for the good of Hong Kong and its air!

Your sincerely

Tom Potter