It’s been a year to forget for South Africa and of course, the same can be said for most countries around the world but the Rainbow Nation, in particular, has been hit hardest by knee-jerk travel restrictions that have driven a dagger into the tourism sector. Indeed, when you consider that the tourism industry’s contribution to the gross domestic product in South Africa is around 7%, you can all of a sudden begin to get a better grasp of how tough life has been in Africa’s southernmost country.
At times like these, the natural response would be to feel dejected but this country doesn’t do feeling sorry for itself, it’s simply not in the South African DNA. Instead, the drive is on to reboot the country’s image by bringing a grand prix back to South Africa in 2023. Thrillingly, it’s a distinct possibility, and thanks to the champion for social change, Lewis Hamilton, who is unsurprisingly one of the leading men in the BBC sports personality of the year betting, a date with destiny looks to be just around the corner.
Yes, South Africa have one of the most influential people on the planet fighting their corner and at times like these, it’s easy to see why the spoty 2021 tips predict that Hamilton will once again be crowned the winner given how much the 36-year-old does to further the underdog’s cause.
It’s easy to join in the lazy narrative about the seven-time world championship winner but when you take a closer look at what he is saying and indeed doing instead of forming an opinion out of a tabloid headline, you do understand that his activism is for the greater good. In this case, it has been Hamilton who has been saying that a Grand Prix in South Africa would be important for the sport.
Hamilton is right but it will also be monumental for South Africa given that the sport is predicted to boast a global audience of well over half a billion people by 2023. On top of that, you also have to add the viewing figures from the global phenomenon that is Netflix’s Drive to Survive and the 50 million people who tune in to watch. Indeed, you can picture a scenario where Netflix shape the series around a return to South Africa for the first time since 1993. Should this all go to plan, South Africa will have almost a billion new eyeballs on the country which will ultimately catapult the Rainbow Nation back into the international limelight for all of the right reasons.
Encouragingly, the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit just north of Johannesburg where the race is predicted to take place only has to make a few minor adjustments to get the green light from Formula One’s governing body but crucially, it is already safer than any street circuit on the F1 calendar. With this in mind and after the jaw-dropping scenes at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix where safety seemed to be an afterthought, you do imagine that Kyalami won’t have any trouble in its quest to be added to the F1 roster by 2023.
All in all, the future looks bright for Formula One in South Africa even if the reality on the ground at this present moment seems far from optimistic. The truth is that the storms will clear sooner rather than later and when they do and thanks to Formula One, the world will descend on the Rainbow Nation once more and remember why it is the awe-inspiring place that it is.