Although there isn’t, at the time of writing, a Formula 1 race scheduled for South Africa, that doesn’t mean that the idea of hosting an event in Africa’s southernmost country should be disregarded. The country’s long had a love affair with open-wheel racing, meaning that a return for Formula 1 is undeniably feasible.
A History and Future of Open-Wheeled Motorsport Action
Throughout the 19th century, the highest class of single-seater racing hosted a world championship race on 33 occasions, with the first being in December 1962, and the last now 27 years ago back in 1993. During this period, South Africa welcomed some of the sport’s most iconic drivers, including Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Jim Clarke, and Michael Schumacher.
Furthermore, over the course of its race-hosting days, South Africa demonstrated its versatility in relation to location and track design. From 1962 to 1966, the race took place at the Prince George circuit, which was constructed in 1959. Following that, the high-paced Kyalami track took over and was the last circuit to host a Formula 1 race in South Africa.
While there is little talk of a return to South Africa for the sport dominated in recent years by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, Cape Town is under consideration to host a Formula E event. At present, initial studies have been conducted to ensure that a street race in the country’s second-most populous city is feasible. The hope is that South Africa could host its first E-Prix as early as next year. Even though this isn’t the return of fast-paced Formula 1 action that many local people have longed for, it’s a step in the right direction for a country seeking to once again establish itself in the single-seater racing world.
South Africa Has Racing Pedigree
Prior to Formula 1, the very first South African Grands Prix was held in 1934, showcasing that open-wheel racing is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. Having consistently remained on the calendar for the highest class of single-seater racing from 1967 to 1985, it’s clear that the market remains worthy of exploration.
Although there haven’t been any South African drivers on the grid in more recent years, they were once regulars throughout the paddock. The country has seen over 23 drivers make their way into Formula One, and while many of them were unable to hit the heights, Jody Scheckter undeniably captured the hearts of local fans and aided with the growth of open-wheel racing in South Africa. Aside from being the first South African to win a home Grand Prix in 1975, Scheckter’s career total of ten race wins helped him clinch the 1979 Drivers’ World Championship while at Ferrari, finishing ahead of Gilles Villeneuve.
Away from open-wheel racing, fast-paced motorsport action continues to thrive in South Africa, with track racing now being one of the most popular pursuits. Moreover, drag racing is also now an established recreational sport, while kart racing also remains a prominent feature in the country’s racing world. As a result of this popularity, motor racing is now having an impact on more diverse digital industries, such as iGaming, with many online casinos featuring racing-focused titles. Racing for Pinks, for example, is a five-reel slot game that embodies the fast-paced nature of street racing, which has long been popular within South Africa.
Formula One and South Africa Are a Match Made in Heaven
Ultimately, a country with such a rich history in motorsport, in particular, open-wheel racing, shouldn’t be deprived of high-level action for much longer. The foundations that have been laid throughout the 19th century mean that South Africa is more than ready for the return of Formula one and there’s a sense of inevitability that the option will once again be explored in the future.