Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali arrived in South Africa earlier today for talks about holding a race in the country as early as 2023.
According to Channel News Asia, Domenicali is expected to meet with representatives of the Kyalami circuit near Johannesburg with the aim of reaching a deal for a South African race in 2023.
At the Black Book Motorsports Summit last year, Chloe Targett-Adams, F1’s head of race promotion, said:
Africa is a continent that we don’t race in and that is just wrong. It’s somewhere that we very much want to race in. It’s a priority.
And again at a CSM-hosted webinar just last week, Targett-Adams stated that Africa is a “big strategic aim”.
As we’ve discussed in previous editions, Formula One’s goal is to get into a rotation of 30 races, not necessarily every season, but rather, giving some tracks a break each year to recover from the toll of hosting a Grand Prix takes.
A major market for F1 is China, and there has been discussion of a second Chinese GP even though China has not hosted a single Grand Prix since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Any future race remains in doubt because there are still major COVID concerns in the country.
If both China and South Africa were to happen in 2023, which circuits would be replaced?
It seems the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard is first up on the list to be dropped in addition to the legendary Spa in Belgium. Although from most sources it seems that Spa would be one of those rotation Grands Prix, so we won’t be done with it completely. Thank goodness.
A Brief Kyalami History
The Kyalami circuit was built in the early 1960s and played host to its first South African Grand Prix in 1967. Formula 1 raced there until 1985.
The 1985 race was mired in international controversy as nations began boycotting South African sporting events because of a state of emergency declared by the South African government in July of that year because of a surge of violence related to racial segregation in the country, called apartheid.
Most people involved in Formula One were strongly against going to race in South Africa. The French Government even banned participation in South African sporting events.
1985 was the final South African Grand Prix until the end of apartheid, with FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre announcing days after the race that a Grand Prix would not return to the nation because of apartheid.
After the end of apartheid in 1991, Formula One returned to Kyalami for two Grands Prix in 1992 and 1993. The 1992 event was dominated by Mansell and the 1993 running saw an intense battle between Prost, Ayrton Senna, and Michael Schumacher.
In July 1993 Kyalami was sold to the South African Automobile Association, which managed to run the facility at a profit; however, running a Formula One event proved too costly and the Grand Prix did not return.
In May of 2015, an extensive redevelopment plan for the facility was announced including changes to the circuit layout, resurfacing of the circuit, upgrade of all spectator areas and facilities, and a major upgrade to the pit building and exhibitions and conferencing center. Safety upgrades to an FIA Grade 2 level have been installed, although Grade 1 is required for Formula 1 racing.
What Does it Take to Get FIA Grade 1 Certification?
This one could literally take forever as many of the factors are recommendations based on what type of track is being built. Here are a few of those recommendations, but please understand this is by no means comprehensive.
The maximum permitted length for a straight section of the track is 2km. The Baku City Circuit we just raced at this past week is 2.2km, so there’s some flexibility.
There is also the recommendation that no new circuit should exceed 7km. I mention new because one of the best tracks on the calendar, Spa-Francorchamps, is slightly over that at 7.004km. The guideline is there to ensure we don’t get another 25km long circuit like Pescara. (The 1957 Pescara Grand Prix took place in Pescara, Italy, and was won by Stirling Moss)
Starting grid must be 15m wide.
There should be at least 8m length of grid per car for the F1
It’s preferred that there are at least 250m between the start and the first corner.
The gradient of the start/finish straight should also not exceed 2%.
As for the first corner, that could be a change of direction of at least 45° with a radius of less than 300m.
Permanent tracks should have a continuous border around them with a white line in anti-skid paint being a minimum of 10cm wide.
There is a mile-long list of recommendations for facilities and medical as well as run-off recommendations and track protection.
While it’s obvious there’s plenty of pedigree at this track, there’s work to be done. On top of all this, the money people will have to talk to the money people to get this race back on the calendar.
If we’ve learned anything over the past six months, it’s that if F1 wants a race on the calendar, they are willing to take over the promotion of the event to make it happen. (Las Vegas GP is being run and promoted by F1 and Liberty Media subsidiary, LiveNation)
Any news on which current circuits we are losing next year?
Haven’t got any clear indication. Seems to be a lot If buzz around Spa but I hope that’s just chatter