- The reason for South Africa's shock exclusion from the 2023 Formula 1 calendar is made public.
- Anton Roux, a leading figure in local motorsport, confirms that attempts will be made to stage an F1 race in 2024.
- Roux says that South African motorsport will benefit greatly if young talent can engage with heroes like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Local motorsport fans are still reeling from the news that South Africa will not be hosting a round of the Formula 1 championship in 2023. Early signs pointed to the pinnacle of motorsport returning to the Kyalami Circuit next year, but negotiations fell flat, bludgeoning any hope of a return.
The FIA, international motorsport's governing body, and FOM (Formula One Management) have published the 2023 calendar, confirming a record 24-race season and SA's exclusion. Even until the moment next year's schedule was confirmed, many F1 aficionados in SA still had hope that a miracle could happen.
So, just what went awry in SA's bidding process and can something be salvaged to stage a race in 2024?
For an F1 race to happen, several parties must be involved, and guarantees - both financially and otherwise - must be met. Unfortunately for South Africa, holes were poked in the bidding bag, resulting in the negotiation process not bearing the desired fruits.
The seven parties involved in SA's bidding process were the FIA, F1, Motorsport SA (MSA), the venue provider (Kyalami Circuit), the national government (including the Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture, and the Department of Tourism), local government, and the local promoter: the SA Grand Prix Association led by Warren Scheckter.
Anton Roux, MSA chairman and member of the FIA Senate, confirmed to News24 Sport: "The reason the F1 event is not taking place in 2023 is that the F1-appointed local promoter was unable to deliver on the financial guarantees.
"The whole issue here is not a fault of the FIA, F1, MSA, or government's side. It was purely because the local promoter could not deliver. And we now need to replace the local promoter. But I am very confident that we'll be on the 2024 calendar."
News24 Sport reached out to Scheckter, but he said he was not at liberty to discuss the details surrounding the negotiations.
Advantages of a 2024 inclusion
Though next year is off the cards, Roux is confident of inclusion on the 2024 F1 calendar. Talks are already taking place between South Africa (as the host nation) and potential promoters and, says Roux, all the promoters they are talking to have experience hosting F1 races.
Therefore, if all the cards fall into place and all the role players can get on the same page, it is not farfetched to envision SA on the 2024 calendar.
While a race on the African continent will truly make F1 a global spectacle, the South African economy stands to gain massively. An economic impact study was conducted to gauge F1's impact on the country, with Roux confirming that the hospitality and tourism industries are the biggest beneficiaries. Not just Gauteng, but the entire country.
The tourism and hospitality spin-off will be enormous.
60% of spectators attending an F1 race are not from the host country, meaning South Africa, with its rich tourism culture, stands to gain from international guests visiting landmarks such as the Kruger National Park and the Cape Winelands. And with an average of 70 million viewers tuning in to watch an F1 race (based on 2021 numbers), South Africa's global image will undoubtedly be bolstered.
"Another advantage we have in South Africa is that we're in the same time zone as the Europeans," Roux notes. "So, from a television viewer point of view, it slots in with where the biggest viewership is."
Feeding the grassroots
Though motorsport is alive and well in South Africa, F1 has been a big motivator for many to carve a career out of motorsport. And men like Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, and Alain Prost were the inspiration.
1993, the last time a race was staged in SA, is too far in the past for many South Africans to remember, especially the younger generation. Bar watching F1 races from the comfort of our couches, there aren't many opportunities for youngsters to engage with the world's top motorsport athletes.
But modern-day F1 has new heroes. And whether they're already in motorsport or dreaming of entering it one day, South African youngsters need the motivation of seeing their heroes in person. 2024 could present that opportunity, with Roux, in his capacity as an FIA Senate member, wanting to address it.
"We need to create more sporting heroes for our children to follow, and I think that will be the big benefit to South African motorsport," he concludes. "The guys must see a Lewis Hamilton or a Max Verstappen so that they can relate to it. We need to create aspiration."