The booming Formula One has been racing ahead adding new venues and more races to the annual calendar. With the sport racing across most of the major continents of the world, hope was revived in 2021 that South Africa could see the suite completed.
Lewis Hamilton has repeatedly called for a race to be held in Africa and upon the news of a revived South African GP being actively discussed the British driver told Sky Sports last year in Baku:
Hamilton calls for South African GP
“The place that I really feel is dear to my heart and, most important to get a race back, is in South Africa.
There is a great following out there and I think it would be great to be able to highlight just how beautiful the motherland is.”
A deal was believed to be close and following last season’s Azerbaijan GP, F1’s CEO flew to Johannesburg to finalise the details.
The venue for the revived race was to be held at the Kyalami circuit which hosted F1 championship races from 1967-1985 before being suspended in 1992 following the end of apartheid.
African event cancelled for 2023
The South African GP was slated for a spring date with the unfortunate consequence of the Belgium GP being dropped as China was also set to return and complete the 24 race maximum roster.
Yet the race failed to materialise on the FIA’s calendar for 2023 posted during last autumn.
TJ13 reported that there was disagreement at the time amongst the South African government, sponsors and race promoter. Further, for the event to be considered for 2024 the FIA set a new deadline of March 31st 2023 for all parties to have signed the appropriate agreements.
Scheckter tells all on collared SA deal
Now with just under 3 weeks until the deadline expires former F1 world champion and Kyalami winner Jodie Sheckter reveals why the deal was never concluded.
Speaking to TotalMotorsport.com Scheckter reveals his nephew Warren has worked on bringing back the South African GP for almost sex years.
As with most Formula One events, the Kyalami race would require local public funding which Warren finally managed to deliver only to see the local promoter make a last minute push for a bigger slice of the pie.
Government funding agreed for Kyalami
“I was an inside part of it, my nephew worked on it nearly full time for six years,” Scheckter explained.
“Going [to the] government and getting [their support], and for them all to agree to put some budget in and then to secure the money – it takes a massive amount [of effort].”
“F1 came over to sign. He had got government backing, some of the wealthiest people in South Africa behind it.”
Then at the last minute the promoter felt he was entitled to a greater share of the income.
“Greed” killed the GP
“Everything was in place, and the guy from Kyalami got greedy,” Scheckter said.
“Just as soon as F1 left, he changed the whole thing completely.
“The guy from Kyalami went from 500,000 to 2 million, and he wanted to take the whole thing over,” he said.
“The government realised there was a fight and withdrew, and that was the end.”
Belgium GP set for permanent reprieve
The timing of Sheckter’s revelation just days before the FIA deadline expires is no co-incidence. Clearly when the deal is finally announced to be dead, he wishes to exonerate his nephew form any potential criticism.
Given the lack of infrastructure and other realistic candidates to host an F1 event, the South African GP is effectively dead in the water given the breakdown in relationships between Kyalami’s owners and the other parties.
This should be good news for the Belgium GP because even were China to return in 2024, there is still a slot free for the historic race event held each year in the Ardennes Forest.
The promoters of the race in Spa-Francorchamps have been hurriedly upgrading the circuit over the past two seasons to meet the demands of a modern F1 event. Further the 2022 Belgium GP had the modern festival feel to it as cars performed for the crowds after on track action.