Sustainability Lessons from Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has faced many of the same challenges in the fashion industry as motorsport faces and this week, I look at the sustainability lessons motorsport can learn from her experience.

In addition to this I look at suggestions on how electric motorsport can attract a bigger audience, sustainable race fuels and the technology behind green race tires. You can also watch a Rimac Nevera race a McMurtry Speirling and a Red Bull RB8 F1 car in a drag race!

All this and much more in this week’s edition of the Sustainable Motorsport Roundup on Motorsport Prospects. As always, your source for sustainable high performance news.

Sustainable Motorsport News

Sustainable Motorsport Roundup

The fashion industry is very similar to motorsport when it comes to sustainability. Both can be quite unsustainable and even when they make changes to reduce their impact, they are still perceived negatively. Stella McCartney is a fashion designer who is renowned for her use of vegan versions of standard fashion staples such as leather and fur and she has made impressive gains in sustainable fashion while still retaining the soul of a luxury fashion brand. I read a recent profile of her in Time Magazine and I realized that a lot of the battles she has waged, and continues to wage in the area of sustainability, and the push-back she often gets are very similar to what motorsport is going through with respect to its sustainability initiatives.

Stella McCartney is the perfect definition of the axiom that the enemy of good is perfection. “She tells me several times that she is not perfect and that her brand isn’t either.” This is key in my opinion when dealing with sustainability in any business (or walk of life frankly). The quest to become sustainable will never be perfect, we will never achieve complete sustainability. The question is whether we should abandon all attempts to become more sustainable only because we cannot reach 100%. Stella McCartney, much like Toto Wolff at Mercedes F1, are working hard to reduce their impact on the environment, not because they have to, but because it is the right thing to do. Most importantly, they realize that it is an ongoing, complicated and at times frustrating journey.

I get driven and angry,” McCartney says of the limitations she faces compared with her peers. “But these are the kinds of things that make me want to get up in the morning.” Sustainability is not easy, nor is it straightforward. Often for every step forward there are two steps back, but that is no reason why we should stop, whether that be a fashion brand or a racing team. The result is worth it.

The approaches of McCartney and Wolff are quite similar in their respective industries:

Stella McCartney: When she’s working on a collection, she’s thinking about how a Stella McCartney-designed piece should make you feel: confident, comfortable, alive, effortless, sensual. “I want to feel the best version of myself,” she says, her eyes lit up. “I want to feel f-cking fabulous.”

Toto Wolff: “Performance at any cost, without thought of the wider repercussions, is no longer acceptable in today’s world. But being sustainable doesn’t have to mean compromise. Delivering sustainable high performance has become a guiding principle in the way we operate.

There will always be detractors when it comes to sustainability, and quite frankly, it keeps everybody on their toes. By being open and transparent in what you are doing, avoiding greenwashing and most importantly of all, accepting the fact that you will make mistakes, progress will come.

Don’t look at sustainability in motorsport as something that will somehow diminish our favourite sport. Instead, look at it as a way to reduce the impact it has on the world around us while still going as fast as it can. If there is one thing that motorsport enjoys most it is a challenge and sustainability is a challenge that motorsport can and will tackle. Being fast and green, like being sustainable and stylish, does not have to be an either/or proposition, we can and will do both.

Top Gear looks to answer the question, how does electric motorsport attract a bigger audience? “One thing that I think will help is to invest in education for the public,” Nissan’s Formula E team boss Tommaso Volpe told “To explain the sport better, because what we’ve seen in our studies is there’s a little bit of an obstacle to understand the sport, because it’s not a traditional motor sport. It’s more about technology, the complexity of electrification, energy management and so on. Once you go beyond that obstacle, [we found] people are really engaged.”

Haas F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg feels that the impact of climate change impact has hurt F1’s image in Germany. “But then also, I think, in Germany, the perception of in general the car automotive industry is it’s like responsible for climate change and is not sustainable. And I think that rubs off onto motorsport. That’s why I think the perception and what politicians tell the people is that this is bad, and somehow that has a negative impact on racing in F1 too.”

Sustainability consultants Enovation Consulting, authors of the Sustainable Circuits Index, have a great post on their LinkedIn page on how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is working hard to integrate sustainability into the Indy 500. IMS president J Douglas Boles explains how the circuit has engaged both fans and staff with sustainability.

Sustainability Lessons from Stella McCartney

Forbes explains how Hansen Motorsport is leading the way towards decarbonized racing.

We don’t intend to continue with carbon offsetting forever,” adds driver Kevin Hansen. “Our goal is to cut all the emissions and all the impact we have. But carbon offsetting is a step on the way for us to support a sustainable future.” Through ALLCOT, Hansen Motorsport chose to support the Piedra Larga Wind Farm II in Mexico, allowing the team to offset 279,000 kg of CO2. “That is a good step. But our goal is to become Net Zero. It’s important to understand the difference between Net Zero and Carbon Neutral. Carbon Neutral is doing offsetting, so you have emissions in your company, and you buy credit to support new carbon-reducing programmes to counteract those. But Net Zero is where you don’t even have emissions in the first place. That would mean running renewable energy in race cars, in logistic vehicles, in all our transport flights. There should never be an emission from our work as a race team. That is our goal. Our slogan is: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

Sustainable Motorsport Tech

Sustainable Motorsport Roundup

A wide array of newly developed racing fuels is helping reduce the overall environmental impacts of motorsports, while also bringing potent benefits to racers. But creating these fuels comes with a complex set of unique challenges. PRI magazine digs in and provides some insight on the fuels.

When it comes to racing fuels, imitations can sometimes be better than the original. In farms, laboratories, and production facilities around the world, forward-thinking individuals are reinventing the precious liquids that fuel our race cars. In the process, they’re creating fuels that burn cleaner and make more power, with less impact on the environment.”

With the announcement that HEXIS has become the official provider of wrapping and paint protection film kits for the NXT Gen Cup, sustainability is a big part of the equation.

“HEXIS is a key partner to NXT Gen Cup with its high-quality products which protects and makes our field of 100% electric race cars look amazing,” said Christian Axelsson, Partners & Event Manager of NXT Gen Cup. “Their push for a reduced environmental impact and a strong focus on finding and educating new young talents fits really well with the core philosophy of NXT Gen Cup.”

Grassroots Motorsports looks into the development and technology of sustainable race tires and why it matters. At the end of the day, Firestone’s racing division has one primary goal. “We don’t want to sacrifice performance,” Cara says. “We want to have sustainability, but not at the cost of performance or durability.”

ERA Racing School Car
ERA Racing School

Staying with tires, the ERA Championship is promoting sustainability by maximizing their Goodyear tires.

During a race weekend, tires face extreme conditions that demand their maximum performance. However, after the event is over, many still have a lot of potential. Therefore, a second run of use prevents a new compound from being used unnecessarily. These tires, which have already had the adrenaline rush of racing, continue their journey in test sessions and experiences at the ERA Racing School, extending service life and contributing to the training of new racing drivers.”

Speaking of the ERA Racing School, they have announced a new Racing School Rookie event for the 20th of September. “Racing School Rookie is created for drivers with minimal experience in single seater racing. From the (young) kartingpilot to the trackday driver, everyone is welcome to participate. Learn a well-founded base to race at any track. Here are the key elements.”

This 1-day course prepares you to be able to race at any circuit and you will learn the basics of racing. You do this under the instruction of Pro-Driver Xavier Maassen, who will guide you throughout the impact-filled day.

What’s included in this day?
– Theory Training
– Sim Training
– Driving Time 4×20 min
– Exclusive Zolder track (max. 7 cars)
– Video & Data Analyses
– GoPro footage to take home
– Certificate of participation
– RACB club license obtainable

More information can be found here.

The September issue of Race Tech Magazine has a great feature on the hydrogen transition at Le Mans. “It looks a matter of when, rather than if, a hydrogen-powered car wins the Le Mans 24 Hours. Bernard Niclot, consultant for the ACO’s hydrogen programme, talks Chris Pickering through the complexities of the transition to H2 combustion and fuel cells.”

You can buy your copy here.

Here’s a bit of fun. In the video above, watch a Rimac Nevera race a McMurtry Speirling and a Red Bull RB8 F1 car in a drag race.

Series News

Two weeks ago I mentioned how the Formula E GENBETA test car set a new Guinness World Record title. The video above explains the story of GRNBETA, a race car that set a world speed record with the assistance of artificial intelligence.

What does a Gen3 Formula E car feel like to drive? Top Gear decided to find out. “When you’re going at really high speed, you’re kind of fighting the car. In fact you’re constantly fighting the car because there’s a lot to do. Communication with your engineer, taking care of the dash displays, playing with your steering wheel to adapt all your settings… after a good day of Formula E, the first thing you want to do is go for a burger and then to bed.”

Should Formula E be making steps to create a more unique, engaging noise from its cars? Not just replicating an old internal combustion engine, but – like Hans Zimmer is doing with BMW, for example – moving towards a much more futuristic sound?

Not so, according to Nissan’s Formula E team boss Tommaso Volpe. “Personally I think they already have a nice sound, but of course you cannot compare it to a V12,” he told “But the mechanical sound of Formula E is interesting. I think it’s more in the spirit of the event where the public play a role as well.”

Recover E initiative

Formula E Season 9 champion Envision Racing and artist Liam Hopkins bring the growing issue of e-waste to life through the Recover E initiative. Two years after crafting a scale-sized replica of a Formula E Gen 2 car entirely from single-use plastic, Liam Hopkins shifted his focus to e-waste, engineering a drivable Gen 3 car using discarded laptops, smartphones, games consoles, monitors, cables and wires.

Williams Racing has identified the five key pillars for sustainability in Formula 1.

To deliver on all of these pillars, Williams Racing established a dedicated sustainability team at its Grove-based headquarters, enabling it to allocate the resources needed to implement lasting, sustainable changes. Although there is still a long way to go, they are confident that they are heading in the right direction and look forward to continuing to collaborate with Formula 1, partners, suppliers and supporters to overcome barriers and ensure that the sport acts as an agent of positive change.”

Motorsport Magazine has an interesting feature on the plans of junior electric race series Ace Championship, set to launch in August 2024. “The alternative junior discipline, which plans to be run in compressed three-month championships – each one in a different continent – will offer scholarships to six drivers, while others only have to bring a budget roughly a quarter of someone competing in a typical Formula 3 season, equivalent to ‘only’ £300k.”

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.