SA Grand Prix hopes boosted by F1 boss’s pending visit

Phuti Mpyane Senior Motoring Correspondent

Formula One champions Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen recently voiced their wishes to race in Africa, resulting in a flurry of speculation that SA could host a Grand Prix.

Further fuelling the hype are reports that Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali will be visiting SA soon. F1 insiders that Motor News spoke to could neither confirm nor deny that the F1 boss is coming here to discuss SA hosting a race next year, but we've been reliably informed that that the Kyalami racetrack will be among a few stopovers he will be making.

The Midrand-based track is the only facility in the country that is nearly fit to host a Formula One race, pending some modifications.

Domenicali was recently quoted by the New York Times as saying“We have two options for a new race [in Africa] and the most likely to hopefully happen soon is SA. It’s part of our agenda and there is a commitment to see if this could be on the calendar as soon as possible.”

SA last hosted a Formula One race in 1993, a year before the dawn of democracy, and the last event of near equal magnitude was the A1 GP that held races from 2005 to 2009. Is the country on the brink of hosting a Formula One race once more?

Motor News spoke to a number of people close to the matter, including Warren Scheckter, MD of the SA Grand Prix, who started the bid to host an African F1 race in 2013. Appealing to both government and private investors, the nephew of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter says work to bring the SA GP to fruition has been going very well, with cautious optimism that SA could be added to the 2023 calendar.   

Adding to hopes are the ongoing changes to the F1 calendar slots. Sochi in Russia has been lost due to sanctions against that country, and new venues popping up, such as Las Vegas and Miami in the US, hint at a changing strategy. 

Chair of Motorsport SA (MSA) Anton Roux has also been campaigning to bring an F1 race to SA.

Roux, who is on the senate of world motorsport governing body Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), said many complexities are involved in arranging a Formula One GP but the FIA can make a case for testing the waters in any city with “fewer requirements”, an example of which resulted in the 2021 Grand Prix at Portimao, Portugal.

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