Written By Hugh Waring, Edited by Meghana Sree
Image: Kyalami Circuit
Formula 1 has decided to postpone its plans to reintroduce the South African Grand Prix to its calendar in 2024. However, the possibility of a race at the historic Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit for the 2025 season has not been entirely ruled out.
In its quest to solidify its status as a true worldwide championship, Formula 1 has been eager to include a race in Africa. The Kyalami circuit, renowned for its rich history in motorsport, had emerged as the leading candidate for hosting a Grand Prix, having last held the event in 1993.
Over the past year, F1 CEO and president Stefano Domenicali has engaged in discussions with circuit officials and other stakeholders involved with the South African Grand Prix in an attempt to revive the race. While originally aiming for a slot in 2024, there were efforts made to include the event in the 2023 schedule as well. However, those plans fell apart due to the cancellation of the Chinese and Emilia-Romagna Grands Prix, due to COVID-19 and flooding respectively.
The collapse of these negotiations opened the door for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to secure a one-year extension, ensuring its presence on the calendar for 2024.
As a result, it has now been determined that the South African Grand Prix will not take place until 2025 at the earliest. According to Motorsport.com, F1 is cautious about proceeding with potentially unsustainable plans for a 2024 race, as it could lead to the event collapsing prematurely before its contracted term has concluded.
The delay in organising a race at Kyalami follows recent allegations made by the United States ambassador to South Africa, claiming that the country has been supplying arms to Russia, with whom it maintains a warm political relationship. It is worth noting that Formula 1 terminated its contract for the Russian Grand Prix last year following the invasion of Ukraine.
Expressing his desire to include Africa in the F1 calendar, Stefano Domenicali stated in 2022: "There are areas of the world that want to have Formula 1, and I think that one area that we want to develop is the African area. We are a world championship, and that's an area where we are not there."
Among the drivers, Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time F1 World Champion, has been the most vocal advocate for a return to Kyalami. During the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, he shared his enthusiasm, stating: "I like the direction personally that [F1] is going in. I've been here, like many people here, a long time. I like the change that we are seeing, and it's exciting coming to different parts of the world and different circuits. We're on all the other continents, so I'm hoping we get to go to Africa soon, and that will be an amazing experience for the whole circus to experience the culture there."
While the South African Grand Prix plans have been paused for 2024, the hope remains that Formula 1 will eventually make its return to Africa, embracing the continent's vibrant motorsport culture and providing fans with a thrilling race at the historic Kyalami circuit in the near future.