FIA boss comments on F1 South Africa Grand Prix proposal

F1 has a record 24-race calendar this year but Africa is the one continent the sport still fails to stage an event in

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Friday 12 January 2024 14:29 GMT
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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem admits motorsport needs to place “more attention” on Africa as Formula 1 looks to return to the continent in the near future.

F1 has not raced in Africa since 1993, when the South Africa Grand Prix at Kyalami circuit outside Johannesburg was dropped from the calendar.

The sport embarks on a record 24-race calendar this year but Africa remains the only continent that does not stage a race.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have led calls for a return to South Africa and while that is off the table for 2024 – and signs of a sudden introduction in 2025 appear remote – Ben Sulayem acknowledged the need to focus more intensely on motorsport in Africa.

“We have very good contacts in Africa, more attention should be focused on Africa,” Ben Sulayem told German outlet Motorsport-Magazin.

“We have a good vice president in Africa, we are strengthening the clubs there.

“In South Africa, they have a lot of history in motorsport. Since last year, there has been a lot of talk about Formula 1 coming back to Kyalami. That would be a big thing for Africa. We are also thinking about an electric championship that would like to have Africa involved. That would be good too.”

F1 was seemingly close on reaching an arrangement with Kyalami in 2023 for a race, before issues arose surrounding the long-term sustainability of the event following a change of promoter. South Africa’s failure to condemn the actions of Vladimir Putin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also contributed.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says F1 needs to place ‘more attention’ on motorsportAfrica
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says F1 needs to place ‘more attention’ on motorsportAfrica (Getty Images)

It has also handed a short-term lifeline to Spa-Francorchamps. The Belgian Grand Prix was expected to make way for South Africa, but Spa now has a contract with F1 until 2025.

Ben Sulayem also spoke in depth about how motorsport’s governing body are looking to strengthen ties in Africa at a grassroots level.

“We call it ‘Motorsport in a Box’, this is a box that you get from the FIA,” he said. “It contains very simply equipment such as timing and telephones. Then you can at least do speed tests.

“If we want to grow there, we can’t do it from above. I can’t give orders, the water doesn’t flow downwards here. It’s the other way around, it goes from the bottom up.

“You have to start at the bottom. That’s why we recently launched ‘Motorsport in a Box’, we’re sending it to them and we’re going to get them involved in motorsport.”

The 2024 F1 season starts in Bahrain on Saturday 2 March.

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