I experienced an overwhelming - and I’ll admit slightly nauseating - sense of deja-vu when it was announced that FIA Formula E Championship partners Julius Baer and TAG Heuer had commissioned an ‘iceberg’ livery to raise awareness of climate change.
It will be a targeted campaign, with the car taking centre stage in a charity auction to raise funds for the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation on the eve of the Visa Paris ePrix.
Yes I hear you thinking; more rich Caucasians throwing parties in the hope of appeasing the karma gods.
Is the ‘iceberg concept’ something that Formula E needs to push its message? Boris F.J. Collardi, Chief Executive Officer of Julius Baer, says that the design “shows the ability of the Championship to connect the people of today with a brighter future. It targets young people who are concerned about the environment, interested in technology and who enjoy a good time.”
In other words – part people with a social conscience, but the theory is that the car will also drive awareness of the role electric vehicles in future urban mobility.
The concept might have a little more impact if we hadn’t seen it all before. In 2007, Honda split from then current Formula One stylistic (and economic) convention by deciding to run a sponsor free livery, devoting the RA107’s entire surface area into combating climate change with its now infamous ‘My Earth Dreams’ campaign.
Grand Prix Legends dubbed it the “marmite car,” given that it polarized opinion to the point where people either loved it or hated it. In fairness, despite the design’s inability to make an impact on television (who can really focus on hastily assembled globe-themed wrapping paper traveling at 3ookph?), many questioned the sincerity behind “gas guzzling” F1 team lecturing people on their “carbon foot print?”
Perhaps Honda’s timing was just out by five years or so. Formula One’s hybrid credentials (when not being scuppered by Strategy Group meddling) are plain to see and don’t need additional campaigning. Likewise, Formula E just needs to keep pushing along with their road map, the message then will just take care of itself.
Like Honda in 2007, the main issue the ‘iceberg’ concept has it that there’s still some teams such as Mahindra Racing, that still run oil company logos on their sidewalls. Yes, insiders know that lubricants are still required for hydraulics and other aspects of the electric powertrains run in Formula E and yes oil powers the Michelin tyres they run on, but it serves up a contradictory image.
Perhaps it would be a better idea to promote the recycling of these tyres after races into fuel oil via initiatives such as the WJ-T-6 tyre recycle machine and at UTD Research.
Around 50 million are added to the scrapheap in the UK alone every year. That amounts to around 400,000 tonnes. The heating process required to salvage the oil from rubber was perfected around 2007 after ten years of development.
The same year our Earth Dreams first saw the light of day.