South African petrolheads have been teased by many a news headline claiming that there will be an F1 GP on local soil “within the next few years”. How far are we actually from it and do we really want the F1 circus in our town?
There are many factors to take into consideration. Firstly, cost. It’s no secret that the government needs to throw some money at it just to get Bernie Eccelstone and co to consider bringing F1 to South Africa. But in a time where we are still trying to make up for costs incurred during the 2010 World Cup, are we willing to foot the bill for yet another sporting event?
Also, we don’t currently have the infrastructure. There are a few options on the table, one of these being a street race. Are we willing to put up with the upheaval that will surely come before and after it? And what happens once the race is done and everyone’s left? What does it leave behind for us locals?
CAR was able to get in touch with a few parties who are interested in bringing the event to South Africa. The most vocal of the Cape Town bidders is the Cape Town GrandPrix South Africa (CTGPSA) company. This is the company that plans to run the race on a street circuit in and around the Sea Point and Green Point areas.
A representative at the company confirmed that the CRGPSA still intends on hosting a local F1 race and a street circuit is still the route that it wishes to follow. This circuit will include the Green Point Sport Precinct and full use of the Cape Town stadium.
For any F1 race to be staged, the local government needs to be on board, and CTGPSA has indicated that it has had talks with the provincial government of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town, but it is still trying to get a meeting with the minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula.
When asked about its dealings with Ecclestone and where he stands on the matter, CTGPSA stated, “Ecclestone has on various occasions alluded to the fact that he still hopes to see F1 in Cape Town. The ball is pretty much in national government’s court at the moment. We need to obtain national government endorsement which would facilitate funding (this funding will include initial seed funding to perform the necessary compliance studies required to achieve a better handle on costs , economic impact and the environment). Once national government endorsement and a funding facility is in place FOM (Formula One Management) would approve the bid”.
As far as CTGPSA is concerned, a local Formula One GP race looks possible by 2014.
Another interested bidder for a Cape Town race is David Gant from the SA Grand Prix Corporation Pty Ltd, who previously expressed interest in hosting a race near Cape Town International Airport. However, there were “too many conflicting interests on the adjacent land (to the airport)” and this has now changed.
The company then came up with a different proposal and idea that it hoped would unfold near Atlantis. It involved developing a new and smaller airport along with a motorsport complex. Other developments it hoped to include were business parks, tertiary education institutions, free trade and industrial development zones as well as mixed-use urban infill and townships. However, Gant stated that they have encountered some issues with this proposal and have moved the idea of an international motorsport venue to an alternative site.
Unfortunately Gant cannot reveal any details about the new idea and has said that “(they) are beginning with the rezoning application and this is a sensitive process. Nevertheless (they) are excited about the possibilities the site represents – not only for a F1 track but for other major international and local motorsport events as well”.
Gant has made it clear that while the idea of a street race is “romantic and appealing”, it is not financially viable and is logistically impractical. He also believes that “no sustainable economic or social value to the City, the needy communities of our region or to motor sport itself”. According to Gant, the most important reason is, however, that “a street race leaves no lasting legacy for the sport itself or its industry such as motor club facilities, test tracks, driver training schools etc. It provides no opportunities for the typical emergence of commercial and industrial development around the race track with consequential increased economic well being and new job creation for the people of our region that need it most”.
CAR has found out that there's an organisation in KZN also interested in bidding for a local F1 GP, but due to the sensitivity of the matter, details are scarce. A representative has said that they have conducted studies about the possibilty of a motorsport facility in the area, but it’s very much early days and no details have been revealed.
As for Gauteng, Kyalami is perhaps the best option, but it’s been said on numerous occasions that due to many factors – one being that there are residential areas around the track and noise levels will be too high – it doesn’t look like a likely option.
When it comes to ticket prices, expect it to be high. The only money that the host country gets will come from ticket sales. Are you willing to pay hundreds of rands to attend an F1 GP?
As far as we can garner, a local F1 race is still quite far away. What do you guys think? If South Africa ever gets an F1 GP, where would you like to see it hosted and do you think it will be beneficial to South Africans?