The chairman of Motorsport South Africa has blamed the local promoter for Kyalami’s absence on the 2023 F1 calendar.
In June this year, it was reported that a deal was being worked on for South Africa to be brought back onto the calendar having last been held in 1993 but, 30 years on from that race, fans are being made to wait even longer.
When Formula 1 unveiled its mammoth 24-race calendar for next season, South Africa was absent while new races like the Las Vegas Grand Prix had been added.
A proposal for an F1 race is a complicated affair and it is rare to get an inside look at just exactly an unsuccessful bid went wrong but that is exactly what has happened this time round.
A total of seven parties were involved in the bid including the FIA, F1, Motorsport South Africa (MSA), the venue provider, the national government, local government and the local promoter.
Anton Roux is the chairman of MSA while also sitting on the FIA senate and has pointed blame solely at the local promoter – the SA Grand Prix Association led by Warren Scheckter.
Speaking to South African outlet News 24 , he said the reason the race failed to be agreed upon was the local promoter was “unable to deliver on the financial guarantees”.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
“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.
“The guys must see a Lewis Hamilton or a Max Verstappen so that they can relate to it. We need to create aspiration.”
PlanetF1 reached out to Scheckter for comment but at the time of publication had received no response.
The organisers are instead focusing their efforts on 2025 with just one spot available before F1 hits the maximum number of races allowed during a season as dictated by the Concorde Agreement.
One of the main advantages of hosting an F1 race is the tourism with a reported 60% of race-going fans not coming from the host country. Roux believes that one advantage for South Africa is their time zone which is the same CET/CEST.
“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.”
South African GP represents more pushing of the envelope from F1
Formula 1 is on its eighth version of the Concorde Agreement, which is an established set of rules and terms teams must abide by to compete in the sport.
The current iteration came into force in 2021 and it is a sign of how rapidly the sport has grown that when the previous agreement was signed in 2013, there was a total of 19 races on the calendar.
Adding to that number was a slow process until the turn of the new decade where there has been a rapid expansion. The 2020 season was due to have 21 races until COVID reduced that figure to 17. In 2021, it grew to a record 22 races and the 2022 season was scheduled to have 23 before Russia was dropped.
In the span of six years, four races will have been added to the calendar and if South Africa gets it wish, it will be 25 events by 2024.
While this offers fans, as well as commercial partners, more races, a question has to be asked of both the health of the sport and the health of those taking part.
Introducing the 2023 F1 Calendar 👀
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 20, 2022
With the many miles between races and the presence of two triple-headers, drivers, engineers, mechanics and the many hundreds of people that make up the Formula 1 paddock will be asked to spend a large time away from home and their families.
The physical toll alongside the mental one of such an endeavour can not be understated and no doubt that fatigue will transfer itself onto the track in some form or another.
In terms of on-track matters, there is a genuine argument that more races could make for a weaker quality product. The greater the number of races per calendar, the less value there is on any given race. Why worry about losing out on seven points to your title rival when there are plenty of chances to make that up in the future?
Indeed, F1 races could go from feeling less like a grand occasion and more just an average weekend.
Formula 1 has bet it all on expansion, it remains to be seen if it will pay off.