Formula One could return to South Africa as early as 2016, says F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Formula One could return to South Africa as early as 2016, says F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The envisaged Cape Town Formula One street circuit will take in the Green Point Sport Precinct and the Green Point Stadium.
The envisaged Cape Town Formula One street circuit will take in the Green Point Sport Precinct and the Green Point Stadium.

Johannesburg - Formula One could make its long-awaited return to South Africa as early as 2016. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed in January he was “in the middle of trying to do something in South Africa”.

The last South African Grand Prix was held at Kyalami in 1993.

Africa is the only continent without a Formula One race and it would represent a historic achievement should the event return to South Africa.

Ecclestone revealed he was in the process of proposing terms for the country to figure on the world championship schedule again, hopefully from 2016, and with Cape Town as the venue.

“I’ve been looking to going back to South Africa for a long time,” he said, “and now we have a good chance. They’re getting on with it.

“We’re hoping to be back in 2016, but we will have a look and see. We’ll see how we get on.”

South Africa’s bid team, known as CapetownGrandprixSA, said it had been in contact with Ecclestone from 2000, and hoped it had come a significant step closer to bringing the major sporting event back to the country.

‘GET YOUR LIST TICKED’

The organisation’s chief operations officer, Bjørn Buyst, said it had been in communication with Ecclestone for many years, “sometimes with some success”.

“Every step we get closer to hosting a Grand Prix in South Africa is a success for our bid team.

“The last time Mr Ecclestone communicated with us, he told us to get our list ticked and hurry up.

“This is not easy in South Africa due to the current political climate and financial situation. This, however, did not stop us and we have started to tick some boxes, the main ones being the toughest.”

The proposed venue is the Green Point Sport Precinct. While the bid team has submitted a layout for a proposed street circuit, this has yet to be approved.

A feature of the proposed circuit is that it runs through the Green Point Stadium.

Buyst said: “This area is earmarked for sports events and we believe our street circuit going through the stadium will be a world first.

“The infrastructure is there from the Fifa World Cup. We will now be able to use this every year, and not just as a once-off.

“From the F1 come many more events that will be showcased and that is not only motorsport. Formula One is an igniter for many more.”

‘PROPOSED CIRCUIT MAKES SENSE’

Chief executive and founder of the Cape Town Grand Prix, Igshaan Amlay, said after years of research and direct communication with all relevant stakeholders, the proposed circuit made sense.

“First, if you look at a FIA purpose-built track, it has restrictions as well as financial implications and since we have just come out of hosting a successful Fifa World Cup, our country cannot afford another ‘white elephant’,” he said.

“The circuit will piggyback off the World Cup legacy by utilising all existing infrastructure located around our proposed track.

“The mega event will become an annual fixture over a period of five to 10 years or more, unlike the Soccer World Cup and Olympic Games, which come once in a lifetime.”

The proposed circuit is surrounded by tourist attractions such as the V&A Waterfront, the Robben Island Museum, Signal Hill, Table Mountain and the Cape Town Stadium, as well as a golf course that forms natural backdrops.

“We call it our African Riviera,” said Amlay. “While we have submitted the proposed circuit, it depends entirely on all the relevant stakeholders for it to be realised.”

‘WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET’

Formula One has long been associated with a potential return to South Africa. Formula One races were held at the Killarney circuit in the early 1960s but this would be Cape Town’s first F1 race since then.

World championship South African Grands Prix were previously held in East London in 1962, 1963 and 1965 before the event moved to Kyalami in Johannesburg in 1967.

It was last held at the old Kyalami circuit in 1985 and at a revised Kyalami track in 1992 and 1993.

Buyst believed there was a big possibility of Formula One returning to SA sooner rather than later.

“We have been pushing for this for many years and we wouldn’t if there was no possibility.”

Anthony Hamilton, father of double F1 world champion Lewis, has been working on a plan for the past year to bring Grands Prix back to South Africa.

Buyst said they were pleased to hear Hamilton had showed an interest in bringing the event to South Africa but was wary of hearsay.

“A lot of people want it to happen and, believe me, we have seen many,” he said.

“We need all the help we can get. We’re a small team with very limited funds, unlike other companies that have been before us or at the same time, but the benefits are countless. The ripple effect through the economy would be huge.”

Saturday Star