Lewis Hamilton may never get the chance to achieve his dream of being part of Formula 1’s return to Africa after the provisional 2023 race calendar was revealed.
The FIA announced the expected return of the Chinese Grand Prix for next season, after a three-year absence since the start of the Covid pandemic. And the new Las Vegas Grand Prix is also on the schedule, as well as a race in Qatar which was skipped this year as the country hosts the football World Cup.
But notably absent from the list was a return to South Africa. F1 has not visited Kyalami for three decades, though there was plenty of talk about negotiations for it to make a return to the world championship.
Hamilton has made no secret of his desire for that to happen. Despite his lengthy career he has never had the chance to race an F1 car in Africa, and he would very much like to chance that before he retires from the sport.
“The place that I really feel, to my heart, is most important to me is to get a race back in South Africa,” he said last year. “I think there is a great following out there and I think it would be great to highlight how beautiful the motherland is.”
There were negotiations this year between F1’s top bosses and those who would be involved in organising a race in South Africa. While there is desire on both sides to strike a deal, so far no agreement has been reached and so the wait goes on.
Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)
A report from South African outlet News24 claims the country’s government is supportive of hosting an F1 race. But it also adds no research has been done to gauge public interest or the economic impact such an event would have – plus upgrades are needed at the Kyalami circuit for it to become eligible as an F1 venue.
As a result, the 2024 season is now the earliest point at which South Africa could return to the race schedule. But even that might be too soon, depending on how quickly those track upgrades can be made and whether or not F1 can reach an agreement with the South African government.
Hamilton has made it clear that he still feels fresh and will, at the very least, see out his current Mercedes deal which expires at the end of next season. But unless he extends and, realistically, continues to race in F1 beyond his 40th birthday, his dream of racing an F1 car in Africa seems unlikely to come true.