This week, Formula One informed race promoters via email that military flyovers will no longer be allowed to take place during Grand Prix weekends. But, there seems to be an exception to still allow flyovers in some form.
According to RacingNews365.com, Formula One is enacting the ban as a part of its effort to become carbon neutral. Though, the ban is only absolute for military aircraft. Commercial and civilian planes can still have demonstrations over F1 races as long as the flights use sustainable fuels, an option F1 has made not available for military flyovers.
Silverstone was the first F1 venue to publicly state that it received an exemption. In a statement, the historic British circuit explained:
“The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, are not classed as military aviation and, as such, do not fall into the category of those displays that will no longer be permitted at Formula 1 events. We look forward to welcoming them back to Silverstone on 3 July.”
There were also concerns within Formula One that aerial displays were giving countries a platform to showcase their military strength on the international stage. This is an understandable point of view, but it blatantly conflicts with the Red Arrows’ exemption to continue appearing at the British Grand Prix.
While the Red Arrows perform demonstrations with BAE Hawk T1s, a jet-powered training aircraft, it seems strange that the Red Arrows haven’t been categorized as military aviation. The team is still fully integrated into the Royal Air Force’s command structure. The Red Arrows are commanded by an RAF officer and exclusively recruits experienced RAF pilots. There’s nothing civilian or commercial about the Red Arrows. The unit is literally named the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.
The sustainable commercial exception also carves out an allowance for the state-owned airlines of Abu Dhabi and Bahrain (Etihad and Gulf Air, respectively) to continue flying massive airliners over the start/finish straight of their state-run home races. This seems like a move by Formula One to prevent displays that the rights holders feel uncomfortable with while creating a massive loophole under the guise of sustainability for the championship’s biggest backers. F1 wants to have its cake and ban it too.