Formula 1 is closing in on a deal to secure the return of the South African Grand Prix, at Kyalami, as early as next year, according to multiple reports with full backing of seven-time World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton.
“The place that I really feel is dear to my heart and most important to get a race back is in South Africa,” Hamilton told Reuters, and not for the first time.
“There is a great following out there and I think it would be great to be able to highlight just how beautiful the motherland is,” added the Briton.
In the wake of a meeting with a South African government delegation during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali flew directly from Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku to the country to continue discussions with local stakeholders.
The race would be held at the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the country’s biggest metropolitan area; the venue last hosted an F1 race in 1993 and hosted 20 Grands Prix, three others were held in East London.
Africa is currently the only continent not to have a race on the F1 schedule.
Kyalami has undergone upgrades to bring its facilities up to FIA standards for modern races. Whether the venue will return to the schedule next year or in 2024 remains to be determined as a formal agreement has yet to be reached.
Adding a South African Grand Prix would bring the circuit to the max of 24 annual races outlined in the Conchord Agreement.
The 1993 South African Grand Prix was won by Alain Prost for Williams, Ayrton Senna was second in a McLaren and Mark Blundell third for Ligier.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix is set to debut in 2023 as well over Thanksgiving weekend, and a new 10-year agreement in Qatar begins next year after being dropped from the 2022 schedule due to the country hosting the soccer World Cup.
The status of an event in Shanghai in 2023 remains uncertain due to COVID-19 restrictions in China, so the schedule could settle at 23 races for next year.