Alternative Soweto street plan emerges as South Africa continues F1 return push

Sam Cooper
The FNB Stadium. Johannesburg, May 2016.

The FNB Stadium which could be used as part of a new bid for the South African Grand Prix. Johannesburg, May 2016.

The South African Grand Prix may not be dead after a man involved in the organisation of it suggested a new venue could be put forward.

There has been a continued push for South Africa to return to F1 having not hosted a race since 1993 but when the 24-race strong F1 calendar for 2023 was released, Kyalami was not on it.

Plenty of fingers were pointed from those involved in the bid with the local promoter being accused as being the architect of its downfall but there is renewed optimism that a race could soon return.

South African entrepreneur Bobby Hartslief, who was involved in the organisation of the grand prix in the 1980s, said that he had been approached to put together a new bid which would be hosted in Soweto.

“Yes, I have been approached to offer advice and comment on the concept of a Soweto SA Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Nasrec showgrounds,” Hartslief said, as reported by the South African outlet the Times.

“A group of influential businesspeople contacted me some years ago with the concept of a huge event, one substantially greater than just three days of practice and qualifying culminating in a two-hour Formula 1 race.

Soweto is within the city of Johannseburg and the proposed site, the Nasrec showgrounds, is to the east. Hartslief said the site “ticks all the right boxes.

“A Soweto SA Grand Prix at the Nasrec showgrounds ticks all the right boxes. Nasrec is an international standard exhibition centre with all necessary amenities and more already in place.

“Nasrec is next door to the soul of the country and the symbol of African liberty in Soweto.”

The area is not without a sporting history as the nearby FNB Stadium hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup and has a capacity of 94,000 people.

“All necessary planning and infrastructure to host a Soweto SA Grand Prix has been considered,” Soweto said.

“That will cost money. Considering the challenges faced by government at every turn, it would be remiss to expect any surplus state cash to be handed out to fund a F1 Grand Prix.

“The group that has approached us, however, believes they can raise the funds to float a more than just Soweto SA Grand Prix.”

When asked if he believed the race was possible, Hartslief responded by saying “unequivocally yes.”

“South Africa continues to face its challenges. A Soweto SA Grand Prix for the people, by the people, will not only bring international recognition and exposure but will also be a significant morale booster for the country and provide tens of thousands of much needed jobs for our unemployed youth.

“Do I think a Soweto SA Grand Prix can happen around the Johannesburg Nasrec showgrounds? Unequivocally yes. We will reveal more of our plans when our principals speak for themselves in due course.”

Read more: F1 2023 schedule – Record-breaking 24 race calendar announced by the FIA