Africa the "priority" for F1

25/02/2021
NEWS STORY

F1's global director of race promotion admits that taking F1 back to Africa is a "priority" for the sport.

Since the formation of the Formula One World Championship in 1950, Africa has played host to the sport on a number of occasions.

In 1957 and 1958, F1 cars raced at Casablanca's Ain-Diab circuit, though it was only the 1958 event, won by Stirling Moss, that counted towards the world championship.

The sport subsequently headed to South Africa, where, between 1960 and 1993, East London and Kyalami hosted 27 races, the majority of which were world championship events.

Since the world championship last visited South Africa there have been numerous false starts, and while the sport has returned for testing purposes the continent hasn't played host to the F1 circus in almost three decades.

As has been said previously, a world championship that doesn't include the major continents cannot really be considered a true world championship, and unsurprisingly, the spot's bosses aim to put that right.

"I completely agree with Lewis," said the sport's global director of race promotion, Chloe Targett-Adams in a Blackbook online seminar, referring to world champion, Lewis Hamilton's claim that the sport must be in Africa.

"Africa is a continent that we don't race in, and that is just wrong," she admitted. "It's somewhere that we very much want, it's the priority. We've been in talks with possible options for a few years.

"We're hoping that ultimately, we will be able to achieve a race there in the kind of near to mid-term," she continued. "Alongside Africa, the U.S. remains a clear strategic priority. We've got a great race in Austin now, where we are looking forward to working with our promoter hopefully for some more years to come. But we're looking at a second race opportunity, a destination location, and looking to build up that U.S. race proposition. Equally Asia, we've made no secret of the fact that that also is a key priority."

Despite the talk, the reality is that since taking control of the sport, the only new addition to the calendar has been the Dutch Grand Prix, an event which, thanks to Max Verstappen's success, was a virtual shoo-in.

Meanwhile attempts to race in Miami have come to nothing, whilst the issues surrounding the Vietnam race make clear why even Bernie Ecclestone was keen to avoid a deal.

Asked about Vietnam, which has gone understandably quiet since the driving force behind the event, Nguyen Duc Chung was arrested on corruption charges, Targett-Adams said: "Vietnam is an incredibly exciting race location for F1. Hugely young demographic in the country, vibrant business sector, somewhere we're very, very excited to race.

"2020 was to be the first race, with an amazing circuit built in the outskirts of Hanoi. And then, totally understandably, no one wants to launch a first race in the middle of a pandemic.

"We’re working through some localised issues with some change in government going on as well, so we just decided and agreed with our promoter, Vingroup, that 2021 just wasn't the right timing for that.

"So we continue to work through with them, and longer term, we'd obviously still relish the opportunity to have a race in in Vietnam. So we're hoping we'll get there eventually."

If it happens, this year's calendar features the most races ever (23), and though claiming that there is much interest from potential hosts, Targett-Adams says one of the main problems is finding new slots on the schedule.

"We're a global series, we're fortunate that there's a lot of interest," she said. "Equally, there are limited spaces on the calendar. So that's when we look at, without wanting to leave any of the cornerstones of the calendar behind or longer-term relationships, how do we manage that opportunity of bringing on these new locations and being able to reach fans in those areas?

"Which is where the kind of alternation of existing circuits becomes quite an interesting concept. And working through that Africa, U.S. and Asia is where we're wanting to target in terms of new races, at this moment in time."

Of course, other than the fact that Targett-Adams merely appears to offer endless soundbites, the rather large elephant in the room is money, and even before the pandemic the sport was struggling to encourage new hosts on board.

In the aftermath, once the effects of the economic toll take hold, the only possible hosts are going to be the Chinese and the Saudis.

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Published: 25/02/2021
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