Formula 1 has shelved plans to add a South African GP to the calendar in 2024, Speedcafe can confirm.
F1 has long harbored hopes of returning to the country where it last raced 30 years ago, with a grand prix on the continent viewed as crucial to ensure the sport is seen as being truly global.
Just a year ago, F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali insisted a race in South Africa was “part of our agenda”, adding there was “a commitment to see if this could be on the calendar as soon as possible”.
Plans for a race at Kyalami fell through, however, with fingers pointed at one of the seven parties involved in the discussions in the form of the then-local promoter, namely the South African Grand Prix Association led by Warren Scheckter.
Anton Roux, chairman of Motorsport South Africa and a member of the FIA Senate, revealed that the local promoter was “unable to deliver on the financial guarantees”.
Speaking at the time, Roux added: “The whole issue here is not a fault of the FIA, F1, MSA, or government's side. It was purely because the local promoter could not deliver. But I am very confident that we'll be on the 2024 calendar.”
A new promoter in Miami-based sports investment company 777 renewed F1's hope a deal would be delivered for next year.
Unfortunately for F1 and South Africa, that will not now be the case due to the political situation in the country.
South Africa has so far refused to denounce Russia's invasion of, and ongoing war with Ukraine, due to its political ties to President Putin.
This is understood to be of concern for F1 which last year made clear its stance by ending its contract with the Russian GP.
In addition, the FIA adopted a policy that no drivers from Russia or close ally Belarus could compete in its sanctioned competitions without signing a neutrality agreement.
Speedcafe understands, however, that F1's push for a South African GP is far from dead, and that discussions will continue over the course of this year and throughout next with regard to a potential race in 2025.
F1 is eager to ensure, though, any deal is for the long term rather than just for two or three years and then any event disappears again.
As a result of the situation with South Africa, Speedcafe can confirm that it is now almost certain Belgium will be handed another reprieve and a new contract extension for 2024.
The Belgian GP was saved for this year by the fact there was no race in South Africa, and that now looks set to be the case again for next year.
Discussions at the highest level are ongoing over whether any new agreement will simply be for 2024 only, or whether there is the possibility of something longer.