Australian bushfires: Formula 1 to raise money for victims

Australian bushfires
More than one billion animals have died during the bushfires

Formula 1 is to hold an auction of valuable memorabilia and experiences to raise money to help those affected by the Australian bushfires.

Australia suffered its worst bushfire season this summer; at least 30 people and one billion animals have been killed, primarily in the south-east.

F1 said it "felt the need to help those affected in the worst-hit areas".

An online auction starts on 22 January with proceeds going to four organisations helping support victims.

All non-profit organisations or charities, the four are: Red Cross Australia, County Fire Authority Victoria, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and the WWF Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund. The auction takes place at f1authentics.com.

Although heavy rain and golf ball-sized hail hit parts of New South Wales and Victoria this week, the fires remain a major threat.

Qualifying for the Australian Open tennis tournament had to be halted last week because of the poor air quality in Melbourne and F1 says it continues to monitor the situation before the 2020 season starts in the Victorian capital, with the season's first Grand Prix on 15 March.

Australian Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo's racewear will be among the merchandise on offer in the F1 auction. So too will be the helmet to be worn by Haas driver Kevin Magnussen at the Australian Grand Prix.

Donors can buy the chance to meet a number of top drivers, including Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon and McLaren's Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

They can also buy a meeting with any of three team bosses: Mercedes' Toto Wolff, Ferrari's Mattia Binotto and Williams' Claire Williams. Dinner with F1 sporting boss Ross Brawn is available too.

Six-time champion Hamilton has already given £380,000 to help those affected by the bushfires.

Despite the efforts to help, F1 may still face criticism in the weeks ahead in relation to the environment.

The climate crisis has had a direct effect on the severity of the bushfires - last year was the hottest since records began and there has been a prolonged drought.

There could be criticism, then, for a sport flying its teams, drivers and officials halfway around the world to spend three days burning carbon.

F1, though, would point to the steps forward in thermal efficiency created by its turbo hybrid engines, the trickle down effect of such technology in road cars, its plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 and its intention to use carbon-neutral synthetic fuel once it introduces a new engine formula in 2025.

The FIA and Formula 1 also today announced they have become signatories of the United Nations' Sports for Climate Action Framework.

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