Jody Scheckter believes a deal with Kyalami to host an African Grand Prix “could have happened last year”, with a deal with F1 “that close from happening”.
Lewis Hamilton has stated his desire to stay in the sport until Africa returns to the calendar, with the last South African Grand Prix at Kyalami having taken place back in 1993.
1979 World Champion Scheckter, whose nephew Warren has been at the forefront of trying to bring F1 back to Africa, believes a return to Kyalami was not far off – until a circuit official suddenly wanted more favourable terms.
Jody Scheckter: F1 returning to Africa was ‘that close’ to a deal
F1 announced a deal with Madrid earlier this week to bring the sport to the Spanish capital on a 10-year deal from the 2026 season, with a new part-street circuit under construction around the IFEMA convention centre.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has maintained that a return to Africa remains a target for the sport however, with its status as a World Championship needing to reflect the whole world where possible.
Scheckter admitted last year that a return to Kyalami had been thwarted by “greed” by circuit officials, and has spoken more about just how close Formula 1 had come to agreeing a deal to return to Africa.
“I think it could have happened last year,” Scheckter revealed on the Formula For Success podcast when asked about the possibility of a return to Africa for the sport.
“My nephew had spent three years talking to government, getting everything in place and they were going to run it at Kyalami.
“Formula 1 came down there really nearly to sign it up as I understand, and the guy at Kyalami said: ‘No, I want this much money and I want to do this and I want to do that’ and the government, as I understand, saw the friction between the waters and backed away from it. It was that close of happening.”
Both Hamilton and Max Verstappen have spoken out in support of Formula 1 heading back to Africa, and the sport’s boss clarified his position on the matter when asked about it back in 2022.
“We need to make sure when we do something new, that it has to be with the right partners and be stable fundamentals to stay longer,” Domenicali told Sky Sports F1.
“The only thing that I can say that after the first contact with Kyalami is that there are other places in Africa that are interested on Formula 1.
“That’s a very clear target: Africa will come back and hopefully very soon on our calendar.”