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How Formula 1 leverages circularity to drive performance

The return of Formula 1

The timing of Drive to Survive season 6’s release by Netflix couldn’t have been better. It allowed us fans to catch up on last season’s drama before we dove into the 2024 Formula 1 season with the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.

Red Bull stole the show, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez taking first and second place. As Ferrari fans at Kvatt, we were delighted to see a podium-worthy performance from Carlos Sainz, closely followed by his teammate Charles Leclerc in fourth position.

F1 has also been in the spotlight regarding its environmental impact. In 2019, F1 committed to reaching Net Zero by 2030. Given the sport’s global reach, meeting such ambitious climate targets could lead to significant changes in how the teams operate and shape the design of the cars.

McLaren’s sustainability strategy

One of the teams leading the decarbonisation race is McLaren. To align with the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C, McLaren has committed to reducing its emissions by 50% by 2030 and reaching Net Zero by 2040.

Net Zero and circular economy are two strong and interlinked pillars of McLaren’s sustainability strategy, as 36% of its greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the materials used for racing cars and the waste generated by the team.

Circular economy has become a strategic priority for McLaren and successfully leveraging circular principles will be crucial on its journey to Net Zero. One of their projects is to develop a fully circular F1 car by 2030.

A circular racing car

McLaren’s stance on circular opportunities is to reduce the amount of materials consumed, reuse wherever possible, and ensure their waste is recycled. In manufacturing, F1 teams heavily rely on carbon fibre as it is a lightweight, heat-resistant and robust material.

Recycled carbon was successfully trialled at the 2023 US Grand Prix, where Lando Norris finished second on the podium. McLaren is now evaluating where it could leverage recycled carbon fibre for more parts, as it could save 90% of emissions compared to standard carbon fibre.

In parallel to these efforts, they have partnered with Bcomp, Swiss specialists in natural composites, to test bio-based alternatives to carbon fibre. Since 2020, Lando Norris’ seat has been manufactured with flax fibres, reducing emissions for this car part by 85%.

The benefits of circularity

Kvatt is proud to see fellow Swiss entrepreneurs driving circularity! Beyond the environmental benefits of reducing waste and emissions, McLaren is using circular opportunities to reduce the weight and cost of its car while benefiting from increased performance opportunities.

Developing a fully circular F1 car will be a long process requiring strong relationships and collaboration with suppliers, regulators and waste management providers to create systemic changes and ensure the development of a more circular economy.

McLaren’s sustainability strategy perfectly highlights how accelerating a transition to a circular economy can create environmental, financial and performance benefits for those leading the charge.

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