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CEO of Formula One Group Stefano Domenical (left). Picture: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED
CEO of Formula One Group Stefano Domenical (left). Picture: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED

London — Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali arrived in SA on Monday for talks that could see the country’s Kyalami circuit return to the Grand Prix calendar next year for the first time since 1993.

A Formula One spokesperson confirmed Domenicali flew to SA after Sunday’s Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan. The former Ferrari team boss, who took over the helm of Formula One in 2021, will meet representatives of the circuit north of Johannesburg.

Africa is the only continent other than Antarctica without a Formula One race and Domenicali, who represents commercial rights holder Liberty Media, has spoken of his desire to rectify that.

Chloe Targett-Adams, Formula One’s global director of race promotion, said in a webinar hosted by sports and entertainment agency CSM last week that Africa is a big strategic aim.

“It is the only continent we’re not in, it’s an unbelievable demographic in population and one that we’re very keen to bring more into the Formula One world,” she said. “So that’s very much in our sights.”

SA was a regular round of the championship until 1985, when some teams and sponsors boycotted the race due to the country’s apartheid system. The sport returned to Kyalami in 1992 and 1993 after apartheid ended, and Nelson Mandela, later to become the country’s first black head of state, was released from prison.

Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, the sport’s only black driver, has also pushed for the return of an African race, His father, Anthony, was at one point involved in a Cape Town project.

Financing a race deal has always been the ultimate stumbling block, however. Talk has intensified recently of Kyalami returning on what would be a record calendar of 24 races next season if China’s race in Shanghai is also reinstated after an absence due to Covid-19.

Formula One has already announced a new race in Las Vegas for 2023, joining US rounds in Miami and Austin, while Qatar starts a new 10-year cycle after dropping off this year’s calendar due to its hosting of the Fifa World Cup 2022.

Some European races, notably France’s round at Le Castellet, could miss out. A provisional calendar could be published by the August break.

Reuters

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