Lewis Hamilton has urged F1 bosses to put Africa back on the map as he claims that the continent is “the most important place that we have to go to”.
Though a number of motorsport series have visited Africa in recent years, the last round of the Formula One World Championship to take place there was back in 1993 in South Africa.
Since the inception of the championship in 1950, 21 South African Grands Prix have been held, the first three at East London and the remainder at Kyalami (pictured), and whilst there have been 13 Grands Prix in Morocco – dating back to 1925 – only one – that run in 1958 – formed part of the world championship.
Last year, (then) commercial boss, Sean Bratches, claimed that the sport was considering a return to the only (inhabited) continent that does not feature on the world championship schedule, revealing that the Moroccan city of Marrakesh was in talks to host a race.
“We race on five continents and the last habituated continent that we don’t race in is Africa,” said Bratches at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London. “We have proactively been approached by Morocco and Marrakech to take a grand prix there. There is a high degree of interest.
“Formula One raced in South Africa before, “he added, “there is a historic track in Kyalami, but I have been told that due to political considerations historically, that ceased.
“We are looking in the short term to have a race there. It is really important to us to have a race in Africa.”
Two months earlier, F1 CEO, Greg Maffei also talked of a race in Africa.
“We’ve looked at other alternatives in the US, including Las Vegas,” he said. “We’ve looked at other alternatives in Africa.
“You’re always trying to balance both solidifying where you are strong, or core, which is historically western Europe, and then adding other things, like potentially a second race in China, potentially a race in Africa.
“We’re not yet prepared to announce any,” he admitted, “but there’s a careful mix or blend of where you want to grow and where you want to solidify.”
Now Lewis Hamilton has spoken out, urging bosses to put the continent back on the F1 map.
Speaking in a video for Petronas, when asked where he would like F1 to race, he was in no doubt. “Easy,” he replied, “Africa. It’s such an important place to go back.
“At the moment Formula 1 goes to countries and doesn’t really leave much behind if anything,” he added. “Formula 1 has to shift into being a sport that does go to places and leaves behind something that can really help the communities and I think firstly bringing the attention back to Africa and highlighting the beautiful place it is, I think that’s the most important place that we have to go to.
“It needs to be held where it’s not all about money,” he continued, “it’s about people, and in business that’s not always the case, so that’s something I’m pushing for.”
The sport was set to return to South Africa this year courtesy of a fan festival in Johannesburg. Fans were looking forward to the opportunity of seeing Valtteri Bottas and David Coulthard giving demonstration runs, while 1979 world championship winner, Jody Scheckter was also set to make a rare appearance in his title-clinching Ferrari.
Sadly, like the opening ten races on the 2020 calendar, it fell victim to the pandemic.