Max Verstappen racing at the 2019 Hungarian Grand PrixMichal Obrochta / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The 2022 Formula 1 season came with promises of hard racing and a tight midfield. It’s a season of changes: new technical regulations to fundamentally change the cars, a budget cap to level out the field, and a number of driver changes. The 2021 season was an exciting one, though the real fight was still at the front, between 7-times world champion Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and eventual champion Max Verstappen, driving for Red Bull. This year, however, a shake-up of the order finally seemed realistic. Pre-season testing results suggested as much, with Mercedes appearing to struggle unexpectedly, and Ferrari finally once again looking as strong as they have in the past. I tuned in to the first race of the 2022 season full of anticipation for the season ahead. The first thing that caught my eye, though, was not the new cars, the new drivers, or the close racing; it was the larger-than-life CRYPTO.COM sponsor signs all around the track.

I consider myself pretty climate-aware. I don’t eat meat or palm oil, both massive contributors to deforestation and climate change. When visiting my family in the Netherlands I almost always take the train instead of flying. I am also very familiar with how terrible cryptocurrencies are for the environment. An insane amount of energy is required for cryptocurrency mining, the process by which people obtain currency; over the course of 12 months, Bitcoin alone consumes more energy than 185 countries, and about as much energy as Norway does annually. Crypto slurps up so much energy, that miners have resurrected previously closed coal mines to satisfy the demand, leading to a soar in CO2 emissions. Even if cryptocurrencies solve the problems of traditional currencies as they claim they will (which is doubtful), the severity of the environmental impact of mining nullifies any positive impact cryptocurrencies may have.

“Even more egregious is the juxtaposition between these sponsors and F1’s attempts at creating an inclusive and progressive image”

I was aware of F1 and its impacts before finding out they are partnered with F1 and its teams rely on oil money, not to speak of the fuel consumption of the cars, and the insane amount of air travel required to get drivers and engineers from race to race. But for some reason, seeing the words CRYPTO, something that has been on my mind as uniquely bad, so proudly advertised by a sport I enjoy, brought home the kinds of industries F1 will support in the name of cash. Even more egregious is the juxtaposition between these sponsors and F1’s attempts at creating an inclusive and progressive image for itself. Its new slogan, we race as one, was adopted by F1 in response to the killings of Black people by police in the United States, and is part of a programme to increase equal opportunity in motor racing. What one hopes are genuine concerns for cultural improvement increasingly appear as attempts at good publicity when F1 is so willing to promote and facilitate cryptocurrencies, the oil industry, and races in areas with atrocious human rights records. Whatever positive effects F1’s campaigns have had are easily undone by its support of companies and industries that actively contribute to the worsening of climate change.

“I felt like I was watching something I should feel embarrassed to watch”

Though I still watched the race, I found myself not paying as much attention to the new cars, new drivers and close racing that I had been excited to see. Instead, I felt like I was watching something I should feel embarrassed to watch. It was the same feeling I get when I accidentally buy something with palm oil or animal products, or when I took a flight home instead of a train at Christmas. Watching F1, with its Aramco and Crypto sponsorships, the fuel-guzzling cars, and zero mention of the effects of these things, I felt guilt – guilt for engaging with something I knew to be wrong.


Mountain View

Rocket Ronnie soars to seventh heaven

Climate guilt is a relatively new concept. It describes a feeling of guilt around your impact on the environment. Climate change is a pressing issue. Every day, there is more to read about floods, forest fires, and draughts. More and more emphasis is placed on the effect of our behaviour on the climate: for instance, when you search for flights, Google now displays CO2 emissions alongside the results. Given the severity of climate-related issues, and the myriad ways in which human behaviour exacerbates these issues, a feeling of guilt about our impact makes some sense. But is this feeling a productive one? I argue that it is not. The guilt I felt watching F1 didn’t motivate me to continue reducing my impact where I can. It made me sad and frustrated with my friends who watched F1 and didn’t appear to be bothered by any of this. This feeling can lead to the opposite of action – a feeling that nothing we do will have any kind of positive effect.

Ultimately, I don’t know if I will keep watching Formula 1. There is some value in no longer consuming media we find objectionable, and sharing our thoughts with other people to have a productive conversation. It is important that we take action to reduce our impact on the environment. Still, these actions must be balanced with other, equally important parts of life, such as friends, family and interests we find fulfilling, even if it’s a Sunday afternoon of watching F1.