There is no doubt that Formula 1 is a global phenomenon. Many countries across various continents stage a Grand Prix Weekend, and the viewership pattern is on the rise in many of the developed, and the developing countries. But what is an global event, if it doesn’t feature an entire continent? Yes, We have Bernie who is constantly willing to expand to other unknown territories, but is that enough? Does the current economic conditions permit an experiment to be made? Will we see the return of Formula 1 in Africa?
Sometimes, it is funny to look at the predictions, and analysis from the past. What’s even more crazy, is the statements made by a Top official. It does add spice, and humor when the past is looked at the present day.
"Well, I am sure we will get ahead with Russia," he explained to the official F1 website. "India, as you know, we will be there and there are one or two other places that we are interested in. When we speak about the Formula 1 World Championship, we are aware that Africa is missing. We had talks a couple of years ago and almost reached a deal but at the moment they are so wound up with the football World Cup - there was not much point in talking."
That was the statement made by Bernie Ecclestone on March 10, 2010 to the official Formula 1 Website. The following comment was made around the similar time to Al Jazeera English.
"Formula One will not be big in America. But Formula One will be in Russia for 2014, and in South Africa by 2013 even,"
It does look like Russia is on the course for the 2014 race, It’s already 2013, but unfortunately there seems to be no noise about the proposed the South African Grand Prix.
“The hosting of major Grand Prix events in Cape Town will play a pivotal role in enhancing the already-established tourism profile of Cape Town, the Western Cape, South Africa and Formula One Grand Prix™, as the flagship Grand Prix discipline, brings with it a niche market that presents a new demographic to Cape Town, the Western Cape and South Africa’s visitor profile”
With the current estimate of R750, and with the additional cost for the upgradation, and maintenance of the existing infrastructure, Cape Town Grand Prix Ltd. was established in the year 2007 with a proposed street-circuit race to be staged in 2014. Mr. Igshaan Amlay was the man who initiated the dream South African Grand Prix, and was said to be in talks with the Top Boss of Formula 1.
Although, there is not much to the report at this point. We have to believe that Cape Town Grand Prix doesn’t remain a concept alone. Their brand ambassador is none other than ADRIAN ZAUGG who finished in Top 10 in both the seasons of GP2 Drivers Championship that he contested. Zaugg, also contested in the A1 Grand Prix from the 2006-2009 seasons. Zaugg at the moment, is on the sidelines of his Motorsport career.
There are 54 recognized Countries in Africa, that are part of the United Nations. We have to agree with Adrian Sutil who once stated that the real talent of Formula 1 should be in Africa and they wouldn’t be having much knowledge of the sport at this point of time.
Africa and Formula 1 are no strangers in the past, We had 20 drivers emerging from Africa who took part in at least one Formula 1 race until the 1980’s, Of them, Jody David Scheckter is one of the most successful names in the Industry. Jody Scheckter was the 1979 Formula 1 World Champion who was personally signed by Enzo Ferrari camp after his successful stints at Wolf Racing and Tyrrell. Jody scored the only win of the iconic Tyrrell P34, the six wheeled radical car, and also scored points in 10 of the 12 starts that he had with P34. Initially though, Jody Scheckter was criticized by many for being crash prone. Emerson Fittipaldi stated that Scheckter doesn’t belong to Formula 1, and he was the centre of controversy at the British Grand Prix in 1973 where he took out dozen cars. McLaren agreed to impose a 4 races ban on Scheckter, and his stint at the British Team is also remembered for the iconic number zero that his car M23 bore at the two races of the 1973 season.
"This madman is a menace to himself and everybody else and does not belong in Formula 1." - Emerson Fittipaldi
Jody Scheckter was the only South African to win the South African Grand Prix during the 1975 season. The South African Grand Prix featured 23 times between 1962-1993. Alain Prost was the last winner in 1993 at Kyalami. Kyalami featured many times in the Formula 1 calendar from the 1967 season. The 1977 race was most remembered as a fatal accident took the lives of Frederick Jansen van Vuuren, the Marshal and the driver Tom Pryce. This circuit favored the turbocharged engines ever since they were introduced in the Formula 1 due to its high altitude, and the teams using this engine were the clear favorites for the podium.
Apartheid, the racial segregation, was the reason for the exit of Formula 1 and other International Sporting events from the Country. Formula 1 returned in 1992, only to exit the country after the 1993 race due to the bankruptcy of the promoter. Although, we have to admit that bankruptcy was one of the many reasons for the sport’s long absence. Quite recently, Pirelli Motorsport Boss, Paul Hembery, stated that Formula 1 used to go to South Africa for the pre-season testing which is now practically impossible because of the expenses involved in moving out of Europe for the pre season testing.
"The sport used to go quite extensively to South Africa if you go back many, many years. Today, for a variety of reasons, cost being one of them but also practicality if teams want to make dramatic changes between sessions and the shipping issues involved, then there isn't really a perfect solution."
Africa, the continent isn’t about South Africa alone. Of the 20 drivers that belonged to Africa, and had a Grand Prix start to their name, 3 of the drivers belonged to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe as it is called since 1980). We have to bring up the name of Gary Hocking, Winner of 350CC and the 500CC classes during the 1960’s. Hocking had a Formula 1 race start to his name, when he took part in the 1962 South African Grand Prix driving for Lotus. John Love, was the other prominent name emerging from this region. John Love featured in 10 Grand Prix starts over the span of 10 years between 1962-1972 seasons.
Majority of the above drivers who are reported to have a Grand Prix start was actually from a Non Championship races, and not from a World Championship race. Initially, the Formula 1 season consisted of Non Championship races, and the World Championship races. The 1950 Formula 1 season, which is also the the first official World Championship season, featured just 6 races as part of its official campaign, while the 14 other races during that season was just part of the non championship races.
There have been many form of Non Championship races that happened from the Years 1950-1982. All the races from the 1983 season featured in the World Championship calendar. The European Non Championship races happened after the World Championship races. In these races, the grid consisted of the Championship contenders from the main series. Some races featured teams, from local talent or teams from lower categories. Likewise the South African Formula 1 Championship was held from 1960-1975 seasons while a smaller version of this series featuring only a couple of teams was held between 1976-1986 seasons.
The Non-Championship races boosted the local talent, and had them to compete with the likes of World Championship contenders. The Teams that took part in South African Championship were using the modified cars from the World Championship, and it also consisted of local grid. The Front running teams from this league went on to compete in the Non-Championship races held at Europe. During it’s glorious days, the South African Championship featured cars from the feeder series of Formula 1 as well. John Love, Dave Charlton, Ian Scheckter were the prominent names of this championship and many of the flourishing teams were using modified chassis of the World Championship or were built locally, There was never a short of talent or the craze of such series. The cost factor, and the lack of support killed series like this, which in turn killed the talent from this part of the World.
It’s always unfortunate when Talent is killed due to the lack of support. The non championship races wasn’t exactly the right medium, but it showcased talent who could compete with the best in the World. Those days wasn’t about media commitments or recession, it was about racing for the passion that the mankind hoped and longed to do. None of these exist at this point of time, Formula 1 has become resource hungry, ‘Pay to drive’ is the order of the modern day then ‘Paid to drive’.
Africa is forgotten, the continent lies low from economic development, majority of the countries aren’t financially stable. It means that a chance of African driver in Formula 1 won’t be possible in the near future, only if a South African comes along, there seems to be a possibility. South Africa seems to be the only hope for the African Countries. South Africa is the ideal gateway to Africa, it would be a wonderful attempt, if some of the teams wish to have a talent scout to travel in those countries, to identify and groom talent for the future. When we speak of a Global sport, it’s fairly important to have talent across the globe.
Yes, We do understand that the countries in the African Continent needs something more, many of them have a don’t have sufficient needs to survive. We also understand that, Formula 1 teams are in need of RRA, and are in desperate need of money.
But it isn’t wrong to hope, isn’t it?
We just can’t sit forever, and hope that paid drivers can rule the sport, and that things will get itself right in the future. Certain things have to be done. We can’t pretend that Africa doesn’t exist in the global map. Talent emerging from Africa can boost the economy of that region. Imagine the fame, that an African driver gets on winning a race or just contesting in Formula 1. It would do his country a lot of good, he can be the change that they were looking for, Formula 1 needs to do something more, to promote the countries there, to promote the talent in a best possible way. They have to find the talent there, Teams have to start scouting these regions..
It’s not possible at this moment, But it’s not impossible either..