F1 holding talks over South African Grand Prix return in 2023

F1 holding talks over South African Grand Prix return in 2023

Domenicali travelled to South Africa following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on Sunday, according to a Formula One official.

Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali went to South Africa on Monday for negotiations that might see the Kyalami circuit return to the grand prix calendar for the first time since 1993 next year.

The former Ferrari team head, who took over as Formula One’s new leader last year, will meet with circuit representatives north of Johannesburg, with the sport eager to strike a deal.

Apart from Antarctica, Africa is the only region without a Formula One event, and Domenicali, who represents commercial rights holders Liberty Media, has expressed his wish to change that.

Kyalami has hosted the South African Grand Prix on twenty occasions since its creation in 1961, albeit it has been fully rebuilt and the surrounding region developed since the 1993 edition, which was won by Alain Prost.

While F1 has stayed away, the track has held Superbikes, the A1 Grand Prix, the 2019 Kyalami 9 Hours, and the Intercontinental GT Challenge season finale, among other events.

There have been countless false starts since the world championship last visited South Africa, and while the sport has returned for testing purposes, the continent hasn’t hosted the F1 circus in nearly three decades.

Formula One’s global head of race promotion, Chloe Targett-Adams, said last week in a CSM-hosted webinar that Africa was a major strategic goal.

“Africa is a continent that we don’t race in, and that is just wrong,” said Chloe Targett-Adams in a Blackbook online seminar. “It’s somewhere that we very much want, it’s the priority. We’ve been in talks with possible options for a few years.

“We’re hoping that ultimately, we will be able to achieve a race there in the kind of near to mid-term,” she added.

She expressed her feelings during the Business of F1 meeting in Monaco last month. “COVID taught us that we can race rapidly,” she added, “but it takes a few of years to get to where we want to be strategically, to promote the sport and build the fan base.”

“The US is still very much in our sights. Africa and Asia I think is where we need to be. If you look at China with the way that COVID has happened, we’ve been out of that market for maybe three years. Next year is still a question mark.

“Africa and Asia is the focus I think in the short- to mid-term, and how we race in Europe is also a big question, making sure we keep that heartland of the sport.

“It’s a wonderful position to be in, because everyone wants a race. That just gives us the best opportunity to create the most strategically-focused, growth-driven calendar that we’ve been able to do for many years.”

South Africa was a regular round of the tournament until 1985, when it was boycotted by certain teams and sponsors owing to the country’s racial segregation system. After apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela, the country’s first Black head of state, was released from jail in 1992 and 1993, the sport returned to Kyalami.

Seven-time world champion and the sport’s only Black driver Lewis Hamilton, has also advocated for the restoration of an African race, with his father Anthony participating in a Cape Town initiative at one stage.

Financing a race agreement, on the other hand, has always been a major stumbling point. After China’s event in Shanghai was also re-instated following a hiatus due to Covid-19, talk has recently grown about Kyalami returning to a record-breaking calendar of 24 races next season.

Formula One has already planned a new event in Las Vegas for 2023, joining American editions in Miami and Austin, while Qatar begins a new 10-year contract deal.

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