F1 racing return to SA will be a big win for Africa

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes films a video on the drivers parade ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 19, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec.

Photo credit: Clive Rose | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Circuit racing is serious with a history dating back to 1934 when South Africa held a round of the F1 World Championship.
  • "We have two options for a new race, and the most likely to hopefully happen soon is South Africa," said Domenicali as a long-term vision of expanding FI to all the five continents.

As route preparations for the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally began last week, the news that there is a possible return of Formula One racing on the African continent after 30 years is causing excitement.

Formula One is the real thing. Emulating the Kenyan example of setting timelines that eventually resulted in the Safari Rally returning to the WRC calender, South Africa in 2018 kick-started its bid to revive its dreams of hosting a F1 round.

This was a year after Kenya's successful WRC Safari Rally mission. South Africa engaged directly with the world motorsport governing body FIA and the championship's commercial rights holder WRC Promoter.

The owners of Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which last staged a FI round in 1993, hosted Formula One Chief Executive Officer Stefano Domenicali for talks last month.

This sparked speculation that DHL was in talks to sponsor the first FI event as part of the promised-24 round calendar as early as next year.

Mitigating factors favour South Africa, which had earlier been seen as the possible alternative of returning the WRC back to Africa after the Safari Rally was removed from the WRC calendar in 2003.

It was reckoned that South Africa had the financial muscle, but behind the scenes diplomatic manoeuvres at Africa's motorsport body in 2017 in Abuja, Nigeria, prevailed upon South Africa to support Kenya's Safari Rally bid instead and concentrate on F1 or WRC Rally X campaign.

In the meantime, Kenya continued holding a vibrant national championship, strictly adhering to the FIA homologation and sporting code regulations unlike South Africa where rallying means racing all sorts of cars ranging from Dakar-like rally buggies, trucks and souped up cars for fun.

Circuit racing is serious with a history dating back to 1934 when South Africa held a round of the F1 World Championship.

"We have two options for a new race, and the most likely to hopefully happen soon is South Africa," said Domenicali as a long-term vision of expanding FI to all the five continents.

"It’s part of our agenda, and there is a commitment to see if this could be on the calendar as soon as possible.”

Kyalami, a 2.8 miles circuit north of Johannesburg, previously hosted F1 from 1967 to 1985 and again in 1992 and 1993.

The FIA dropped South Africa from the World Championship calendar in line with global sporting sanctions in protest of anti-apartheid after the 1985 season.

FI returned at this circuit in 1992 and 1993 after South Africa abolished apartheid in 1990, but the country lost FI status due to various reasons including finances.

The Kyalami Circuit is the proposed venue for a F1 round next year if the plan goes through.

It's owner Toby Venter and chief executive officer Tom Hamilton met with Domenicali for talks and also to review the circuit which was adjudged as level 2 which means that with a few upgrades to level I, it qualifies to host a FI event.

Top drivers such as Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Keke Rosenberg and Nelson Piquet raced in South Africa.

Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has supported the idea of holding a F1 round on the African continent.

Hosting a F1 round in South Africa together with the WRC Safari Rally can only be described as good for the continent, making Africa a focal point of annual global sporting events.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.