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Jonathan Neale: McLaren Group and Sustainability

It is fair to say that ‘green’ is generally not the first word that springs to mind when thinking about Formula 1. Power and speed, exceptional engineering and glamour - perhaps - but touch upon the topic of ‘sustainability’ and a common reaction is scepticism.

This is hardly a surprise, given the widely-held belief that Formula 1 is ensconced in some kind of petro-chemical fog, oblivious to what’s going on in the real world. However, it does demonstrate that more needs to be done to challenge this view, and to highlight the real work that is going on in the area. For while the glamour, fast cars and drama are certainly factors in the sport’s enduring spectator appeal, to be successful at this level of the sport – and this also holds true for the majority of motorsports – you must address the issue of sustainability.

The fact is, winning races is all about doing more with less. The aim is to complete a certain distance in the shortest possible time using a fixed set of resources, and the lightest, most aerodynamic car with the most efficient engine has the best chance of getting there first. Accordingly, teams analyse, refine and improve every aspect of their operation – not only in the quest for greater performance, but also for greater efficiency.


Formula 1 teams have a hugely valuable in-house resource: their engineers. It is their expertise and creativity that has ensured the sport is developing more efficient technologies and processes. At McLaren Mercedes, we’ve fully utilised this resource to reduce our environmental impact within both the racing arm and across the wider McLaren Group. Indeed, every vehicle in our fleet of race trucks and transporters is fitted with monitoring telemetry that helps to refine and develop efficient driving techniques, while a range of bespoke low-energy lamps – pioneered in-house by a McLaren engineer – have been fitted to illuminate the access roads and car parks throughout the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC). It’s no bad thing that measures such as this also have commercial benefits; being sustainable also helps the bottom line.

The steps being made to improve efficiency within individual Formula 1 teams are also being mirrored by the sport’s governing bodies. The sport has limited the resources available to teams under resource restriction agreements - there are now restrictions on the use of wind tunnels and the amount of super-computing power that we can use in CFD (computational fluid dynamics). 2014 marks an exciting new chapter for the sport also, with the introduction of the V6 engine – direct-injected, turbo-charged and energy-recovering in a variety of forms. The aim is for the cars to use approximately 35% less fuel than last year, while – crucially - popularising hybrid and other energy-efficient technologies to speed up their adoption in road cars.

Formula 1 is uniquely placed to play a role in the definition, development and implementation of new automotive and technological solutions. Uniquely for a world sport, it can actually provide steps to improve the world around us. By being at the cutting-edge of efficient technologies, the sport makes itself relevant and compelling for the car industry, because the efficient technologies that are pioneered by teams such as McLaren Mercedes trickle down to road cars that people can buy.

Take, for example, McLaren Mercedes’ 20-year partnership with ExxonMobil. Our cars act as high-speed laboratories, challenging our partner to produce more volumetrically efficient fuels, as well as lubricants that offer superior protection with minimal frictional losses. The techniques their scientists have developed while working with us have had a direct effect on the fuel and lubricants you can buy at your local filling station: better performance, better economy, better reliability, lower emissions and longer intervals between services. That’s what the customer wants, and the improvements are driven by Formula 1.

Similarly, it makes good business sense to focus on sustainability. McLaren Mercedes prides itself on its mutually beneficial partnerships with field-leading, blue-chip companies that share our brand values. An aligned approach to sustainability would be one facet of this relationship – allowing both companies to maximize the values of innovation and leadership. It is true that people - meaning fans, customers, partners, prospective partners and legislators – want to see evidence, not claims, and we, as a team, want to act positively and demonstrate real substance.

So, while ‘green’ may not be the first word that springs to mind when thinking about Formula 1, we are working hard to demonstrate that perhaps they’re not really poles apart.

McLaren Group - Committed to Sustainability

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McLaren Group: committed to sustainability

McLaren Group has been widely recognised for the efforts it has taken to reduce its impact on the environment.

  • In 2010 McLaren Group was the first motorsport company to be awarded the prestigious Carbon Trust Standard in recognition of years of concerted effort to reduce emissions.
  • In December 2011, McLaren was officially certified as Formula 1’s first-ever carbon neutral team.
  • In 2012, McLaren won a silver medal in the ‘Green Award’ at the Edison Awards for innovation in New York.
  • Later that year McLaren again made history by being the first motorsport company to be re-awarded the Carbon Trust Standard, having continued to make progress in emissions reduction, despite significant expansion in the Group’s activities.
  • In February 2013 McLaren became the first ever recipient of the FIA Institute's Environmental Award for the Achievement of Excellence.
  • In 2013, McLaren announced its ongoing carbon neutral status and also welcomed CNI (Carbon Neutral Investments) as an Associate Partner for Sustainability.