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F1's net-zero pledges are colliding with its ambitions to go truly global

LONDON — To any reasonable observer, Formula One's plan to increase the number of races in its calendar from 24 to as many as 30 seem at odds with the sport's pledge to be net zero by 2030. 

But with the Japanese Grand Prix this coming weekend, F1's beleaguered boss Stefano Domenicali will finally be able to provide a rebuttal. 

Shifting the Suzuka Circuit from its traditional October booking to April is part of F1's strategy of "regionalizing" the racing calendar into four geographical blocks, reducing the distance teams have to travel between events and opening up weeks where new races can slot in. 

In theory, tight regional schedules and breakthroughs in sustainable aviation fuels make this a plausible carbon reduction strategy. But executing it will require Domenicali to perform some advanced logistical juggling. Not only must he balance the competing interests of at least 21 different countries, but also cut the sport's total carbon footprint (estimated at around 256,000 metric tons in 2019) by more than 50%. 

What makes this feat of organizational dexterity even more sensational is that it must be performed while balanced on an increasingly uneven political landscape. Spa (Belgium), Monza (Italy), and Monaco are among the European circuits which have yet to receive contract extensions beyond 2025, while deep-pocketed nations such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have inked deals which will keep them on the calendar until 2030.  

F1's growing ambitions in the Middle East and the U.S. have at times transcended the sport. On May 31, 2023, the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo sent a letter to Domenicali, stating that "the need for you to set up a balanced calendar between Europe, the Far East and