Article by: Pearl Modise
Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali revealed that there have been discussions over the potential return of Formula 1 in Africa to become a genuine World Championship sport. Upon there being interest from both North and South of Africa, South Africa is the only African nation to have hosted a Formula 1 Race: first at the Prince George Circuit in East London between 1962 and 1966 and then more famously at Kyalami. The continent has not featured on the calendar since 1993 at the South African Grand Prix in Kyalami which calls for a long-overdue reappearance.
In 2020 Seven Time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton stated his support for a Grand Prix in Africa to be included in the calendar as he feels it is one of the most crucial places to hold races.
“Obviously, South Africa is the most likely place for that to happen being that it’s a country that has a huge history in Formula 1. It had its own Formula 1 racing series back in the seventies, had a Formula 1 world champion itself and as a country it has quite a big following. Most importantly it has a racetrack that is ready to go, that’s very close to being F1-standard” he said.
Even though the country has not produced many drivers of the race in the recent years there are 23 South Africans that have managed to participate in Formula One, Jody Scheckter being the most impressive of them all, as the first and only South African to win a Grand Prix on home soil in 1975. His son Warren Scheckter who is on the forefront of the bid to host a South African Grand Prix mentioned how Formula 1 makes a significant and positive impact to all the countries where it races, and the sport will create substantial value to the South African economy. “It will create thousands of jobs and attract tens of thousands of tourists every year,” Scheckter concluded. “The Grand Prix will put South Africa into the global spotlight in the most positive manner — it is the kind of positive stimulus this country needs right now.”
While South Africa remains the most likely location there have also been interest from other countries, notably Morocco who last hosted a World Championship Grand Prix at the Casablanca circuit in 1958. The race was overshadowed by the death of British driver Stuart Lewis-Evans, who died after his car caught fire. However, International motor racing made a return to Morocco for the first time in 2009, when the World Touring Car Championship took place on a street circuit in Marrakech. Formula E, the electric series, has raced in Marrakech over the past four years, but the 1.8-mile (2.9 km) circuit is shorter than all the current Formula 1 venues.
Africa is currently the only continent not featured in Formula One’s ever-growing calendar and would undoubtedly form one of the most exciting hosts as there is a lot of potential in the land that has a rich heritage of Formula 1 racing.