Organisers of the Kyalami circuit have spent several years fighting for a slot on the F1 calendar, with 2024 representing the next opportunity for South Africa to make a return to Formula 1.
The recent extension of the Austrian GP’s contract means that only one race on the 2023 schedule – Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps – is without a deal to continue in F1.
China’s future is also unclear, although a return to Shanghai in 2024 seems relatively likely. Therefore – under the Concorde agreement limiting the calendar to 24 races per season – there is only one slot available.
The Belgian GP is still searching for a new agreement with F1, although organisers have expressed their confidence in recent weeks about their chances of an multi-year extension.
However, this renewed optimism has been put into question by the sustained negotiations between Kyakami and F1, with South Africa still contending for a calendar slot.
Spa’s position in Formula 1 has been precarious for several years now, as evidenced by the last-minute nature of the 1-year deal that was agreed last year to keep its prospects alive.
Stefano Domenicali has spoken extensively about the alternative bidders vying for a place on the calendar, so there is no guarantee Spa will earn a new deal.
Some would assume that history, legacy and populairty among the fans would be enough to tip the balance in the Belgian GP’s favour – but Domenicali has already downplayed the importance of legacy circuits.
Therefore, the intensifying reports of Kyalami’s continued talks with F1 represent a genuine threat to one of the most historic ciruits in the sport.
South Africa has been close to joining the calendar on multiple ocassions, with Jody Scheckter explaining earlier this year that “greed” prevented the F1 circus from returning to Kyalami.
Whilst signigicant resources have already been expended on failed attempts, there is plenty of sponsorship interest – alongside governmental support – for the South African track.
This has proven an obstacle for other potential hosts, such as Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur circuit, so Kyalami can at least be assured that finances are unlikely to be a limiting factor.
Belgium’s place on the 2023 calendar was largely saved by the breakdown of talks between Kyalami and F1 last year, so it remains to be seen if lightning can strike twice for Spa.
It should be noted that Spa is in a stronger position than it was in last year, with heavy investment being expended into improving the circuit and its facilities.
However, given how the complexion of the calendar has evolved in revent years, there is no telling whether South Africa or Belgium will get the edge to host an F1 Grand Prix.