Formula One could be on the brink of something special. This week, it has emerged that talks have begun with the aim of reinstating the South African Grand Prix and bringing F1 back to the continent of Africa for the first time in 30 years.
It was way back in 1993 that Kyalami hosted its last Grand Prix, but it could now return by 2024 if a deal can be agreed. The idea already has a huge weight of support, not least from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who threw his weight behind the campaign after the Australian Grand Prix.
“The one I really want to see is South Africa. That’s what I wanna hear next get announced.”
Given the cultural and historical significance of South Africa, it seems like a match made in heaven when it comes to motorsport, after all Kyalami has seen some of the great drivers of the past win world championship races. Nicki Lauda secured back-to-back victories for Ferrari in 1976 and 77, Nigel Mansell won either side of the break due to apartheid in 1986 and 1992 and Alain Prost won the final race here in 1993.
We also saw races in East London, first held in 1934 and although they were held on the south east coast of South Africa rather than in Shoreditch, on eight separate occasions British drivers won there. But the return of F1 to this continent isn’t about the past, it’s about looking to the future. This is a sport that prides itself on being global, and reaching every corner of the world, and yet, Africa hasn’t seen a Formula One race for nearly 30 years.
With an ever-expanding calendar that is now set to have three races in the United States, we have seen high-rolling newcomers Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia welcomed in due to their money but it is now time the sport took globalisation to the next level. A South African Grand Prix would open up the sport to a whole new market, and with the possibility of Morocco joining the calendar further down the line, it's clearly something the organisers are seriously considering.
F1 global director of race promotion Chloe Targett-Adams told a Blackbook online seminar: "I completely agree with Lewis, Africa is a continent that we don't race in, and that is just wrong. It's somewhere that we very much want, it's the priority. We've been in talks with possible options for a few years.
"And we're hoping that ultimately, we will be able to achieve a race there in the near to mid-term.
With 23 races this year, the longest season ever, and plans for expansion in the USA and Africa, there will come a time when the sport has reached its capacity. It’s almost impossible for drivers to race every week as it is, and teams require at least three months to redevelop and test cars. Vietnam are still trying to get their F1 race back after its inaugural running was scrapped due to Covid-19 and there are nations all around the world that would love to host one of motorsport’s pinnacle rounds.
But almost everything is in favour of Kyalami. The circuit may have been redesigned and extended since Porsche South Africa CEO Toby Venter bought the track in 2014, but it still needs to be upgraded to secure FIA Grade 1 status.
Connecting the dots, and given the South African Grand Prix won’t be added until 2024 at the earliest, it does hint that Porsche will be entering the sport in some way, shape or form over the next few years. Whether that ends up being a collaboration with Red Bull, or starting their own team when sustainable fuels are required in 2026, remains to be seen.
But if Formula One is serious about becoming a sport that is loved around the globe, it needs to return to Africa. The Rainbow Nation awaits.