South Africa to join F1 calendar in 2015?


Despite no one being prepared to speak publicly about it, Pitpass understands that a Grand Prix in South Africa is planned for 2015. It is understood that the race would take place in Cape Town on an innovative street circuit which came to light in plans a while ago showing the track snaking through stadiums in the city. It addresses one of the biggest financial hurdles for street race promoters which is how to cover the huge cost of building and taking down temporary grandstands.

Unusually, money may not be the reason why the race has not yet been announced. As Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt revealed last week, under the new Concorde Agreement, the contract at the heart of F1, from 2013 onwards, consent from the majority of the top three teams over the past four seasons is required if over 60% of races are held outside Europe or North America. This year the split is 50-50 so it is already close to the limit.

South Africa could push it over but F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone could redress the balance by adding further races in Europe or North America. The former seems unlikely since the most obvious new addition to Europe is France and as Sylt also recently revealed, Ecclestone says that the country has had enough chances to sign a new race contract.

Even if France is added to the calendar it is likely to alternate with Belgium and so would not add an extra European race. On 8 January this year Formula One Licensing, F1's intellectual property division, registered a trademark for Grosser Preis von Osterreich and it has been suggested that this could take place on the country's leading circuit the Red Bull Ring, formerly the Osterreichring (A1 Ring). However, little has been heard about progress with the race so it is hard to tell whether it will end up adding to F1's tally of European events.

Instead, it seems likely that there will be more races in the US. Teams want to get exposure to the lucrative US market and that's not the only benefit. Having multiple races on one continent enables them to take place on back-to-back weekends which reduces travel time for teams.

Ecclestone has already admitted that South Africa is on his radar and last year he said "I would like to go to South Africa and Mexico. Both countries are trying to do something."

The last time F1 raced in South Africa was in 1993 at Kyalami so the country will want its new race to be a statement of how much it has moved on since then. Time will tell whether the teams hold the keys to it taking place.

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Published: 29/05/2012
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