The last time a Formula 1 grand prix race was held in South Africa was in 1993. It was at the Kyalami racing circuit, located in Johannesburg. That day, the winning driver was Alain Prost – though the grid was also filled with legendary names like Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, and Michael Schumacher.
The country has long been starved of international motor racing events but is now slowly making up for lost time with the hosting of the World Rallycross Championship and Intercontinental GT Challenge – Kyalami 9-Hour races, as well as the upcoming Formula E championships to be held in Cape Town in 2023.
F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali was reportedly holding discussions with key stakeholders, including Porsche South Africa CEO and owner of Kyalami, Toby Venter in South Africa, over the possibility of such a race being held in the country as soon as 2023.
So how is it that South Africa (and Kyalami) is being considered as a circuit option for the F1 calendar all of a sudden? Much of it has to do with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, that has seen the former (and its Sochi Autodrom circuit) removed from the calendar altogether. The new 4.522km circuit has been certified by the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) as a Grade 2 race track, conforming to stringent international safety and quality standards. In order for F1 races to be held, the circuit in question has to meet all Grade 1 requirements.
Tantalising prospect for petrolheads
At the moment, Kyalami is not yet up to FIA’s standard for hosting such a large-scale race, though only minor (safety) upgrades are required as the track is not far off from Grade 1 status. Venter purchased the track at an auction in 2014 for a little over R200-million and injected even more capital to improve the track and various infrastructure.
The 2022 Formula 1 calendar will now run to 22 races rather than the originally planned 23, following the decision not to replace the Russian Grand Prix. The likes of Miami and Las Vegas are recent additions to the calendar, while there are a couple of races (Monaco, French, and Mexican grand prix) also set to expire after 2022, pending the renewal of deals.
In addition, seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he welcomes the idea of a race in Africa.
“The one I really, really want to see is South Africa. Africa remains the only continent without a race on the current schedule. That’s the one I really want to hear next that gets announced.”
In terms of pricing and according to TicketSmarter, the average price of a three-day weekend general admission pass to a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend will usually start around $125 (about R2 000) to $225 (about R3 600), while single-day general admission passes are generally anywhere from $100 (about R1 600) to $180 (about R2 893) for the race on Sunday. This excludes any hospitality or VIP packages.
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