Max Verstappen backs Lewis Hamilton’s call for African Grand Prix

Toby Miles
Max Verstappen shakes hands with Lewis Hamilton. Mexico October 2022

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen shakes hands with Lewis Hamilton. Mexico October 2022

While F1 focuses on the United States, Max Verstappen wants Africa back on the calendar. Finally, the World Champion and Lewis Hamilton agree on something.

From its European heartland, Formula 1 is falling over itself to capitalise on the Netflix-driven American boom; adding two new races in two years with the Miami and Las Vegas GPs. The calendar reaches five continents in 2023, with one glaring omission.

The beloved Brazilian race in Sao Paolo is staple on the calendar, although the now-defunct Argentinian GP is the only other South American nation to stage a race. The Australian GP has held 36 editions, while Asia is a well-explored if under-developed market.

The last time Africa appeared on the series was in 1993, when Kyalami hosted a South African GP won by Alain Prost ahead of Aryton Senna. Ever since, talk about a return has remained just that: talk.

Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has long been pushing for a “dream” African race, saying in 2021: “The place that I really feel, to my heart, is most important to me is to get a race back in South Africa. I think it would be great to highlight how beautiful the motherland is.”

Back-to-back Drivers’ Champion Max Verstappen has echoed his rival’s feelings. The Dutchman’s father made his F1 debut a year after South Africa’s last GP.

“I really think we need a race in Africa. We basically race on every other continent already, so I think that’s the next step for Formula 1,” Verstappen said, per RacingNews365.

“Formula 1 already has a history in South Africa, so that would be a great addition to the Formula 1 calendar.”

Is African comeback on the horizon?

Lewis Hamilton will begin his 17th Formula 1 season next month. The 38-year-old has dreamt of racing in Africa before retiring but his chances are slipping away.

The Brit revealed he has worked on Africa with CEO Stefano Domenicali, who spoke about the prospect last year with Sky Sports: “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.

“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 One.

“That’s a very clear target: Africa will come back and hopefully very soon on our calendar.”

The South African Grand Prix was once a regular feature on the calendar, having held 33 events. That’s more than the Mexico and Bahrain races.

Many of F1’s icons can count themselves as former winners. Jim Clark’s four victories set the standard, while Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell’s names all feature on the honours’ list.