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South Africa has much more serious things to focus on than hosting F1

Spanish Formula One driver Carlos Sainz of Ferrari in action during the Formula One Grand Prix of Spain held at Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Barcelona, Spain, 22 May 2022. Picture: Enric Fontcuberta

Spanish Formula One driver Carlos Sainz of Ferrari in action during the Formula One Grand Prix of Spain held at Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Barcelona, Spain, 22 May 2022. Picture: Enric Fontcuberta

Published May 25, 2022

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Johannesburg - A return of Formula 1 to South Africa is currently being talked about as the sport looks to potentially return to the African continent.

While it will be music to the ears of South African motor-racing fanatics, South Africa still has more important issues to overcome before it can think of hosting another major sporting event.

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Right now, there are also other viable candidates in Africa such as Morocco which F1 can consider if they wish to return to Africa.

Formula 1 is regarded as a “rich sport” for valid reasons. Not only do the vast majority of its talent come from wealthy households, but it is not affordable to attend for many people.

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With a country with high inequality rates such as South Africa, the reality is that should the event return to the country, tickets are likely to cost over R1000 if not far more. This essentially rules out the vast majority of South Africans from being able to attend the event.  A conservative estimate based on the prices of tickets around the world would suggest that spectators can expect to pay around R3000 for general admission.

In hindsight it is understandable why entry fees to F1 are so high. The operational costs of the series are extremely high and even the big vehicle brands in the world can find the costs unsustainable as we have seen from the likes of Jaguar, Toyota and Maserati who came and went from the series.  Each team needs anywhere between R2 billion and R7 billion on average to sustain themselves and they aim to recoup this money from ticket sales.

The costs of running the event are viewed as a major reason behind why the races that used to be held at Hockenheim in Germany and Sepang in Malaysia were discontinued.

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Some will say that F1 returning to South Africa will boost tourism but it’s also safe to say that a South African event is very unlikely to run at a profit. Even the Silverstone Grand Prix in the United Kingdom which is one of the premier races of the year and usually held in front of a packed audience is known to struggle to break even.

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To add to this, an F1 race in South Africa is only likely to attract a lot of criticism from the public, perhaps rightfully so and only further divisions in a country which already has massive problems when it comes to achieving healthy social cohesion.

It is only the upper middle class of South Africans that will realistically be able to afford attending an F1 event.

While the sport has historically been one dominated by an upper middle class conservative fanbase and leadership, it now has a more diverse fanbase around the world in part due to the emergence of Lewis Hamilton and the seven-time World Champion standing up for societal issues.

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It would be very sad and quite frankly unfair if large sections of F1 fans in SA had to be priced out of something that is not even a matter of life or death.

@eshlinv

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