With an almost daily talk of an ever-increasing F1 calendar in the coming years after 2025, a return of F1 to South Africa also looks to be a question of when and not if. McLaren’s Zak Brown spoke to select media, which included Motorlat, at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix and shared his thoughts on untapped markets for F1 and suggested how to get around an extended calendar by instead having an ‘every other year’ scenario for some races.
Back in 2021, new F1 boss at the time, Stefano Domenicali, declared that there will be a race in Africa within the next five years. The continent of Africa is one which Formula One hasn’t raced in since the South African Grand Prix of 1993. On that day, Alain Prost won the season opening F1 Grand Prix at South Africa’s Kyalami Circuit. This circuit is one F1 had raced at since as far back as 1962 but with almost thirty years off the calendar would require a great deal of investment and new facilities as well as successfully being upgraded to the required FIA Grade 1 status. With a return to F1 racing in the African continent seeming inevitable, discussion of a potential Grand Prix there is already picking up traction in the paddock.
Last weekend in Miami, Haas’ F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner told Motorlat and select media that: “I think it would be nice if we go back to Africa…it is a continent with a big population and us going there would be a nice gesture I think.” Meanwhile, Chief executive of McLaren Racing Zak Brown went into greater detail and shared his thoughts on F1’s potential markets and how to counter any talk of a 30-race calendar.
“Stefano has said he’s got demand for up to 30 Grands Prix, which we obviously wouldn’t be able to do. I think we’re at a maximum number of Grands Prix. I think we’re in favour of trying to accommodate many great countries/cities…We could go into some sort of rotational system, so you’re running 20 to 23 races a year. Maybe you have 20 markets, and you have 16 or 17 core races and then 10 races that rotate every 2 years.
“The Olympics is every four, the World Cup. So, I think an ‘every other year’ scenario for some Grands Prix would maintain plenty of interest for these and allow us to expand the calendar where the markets were in without expanding the race calendar itself, because I think we all believe we’re at capacity.”
Zak Brown is no stranger to entrepreneurial thinking, and he could really be on to something with this idea. One thing is also clear, Brown clearly feels that the venue should have no impact on the champion as he remarked: “However many races you have, may the best driver win regardless of what circuits you’re at.”
With that in mind, the question was posed to Zak Brown as to whether there are any untapped markets.
“I think Africa’s a great market. I think Asia, you know it’s unfortunate with COVID, but China again is a great one to go back to. Singapore is an awesome event, you saw the interest in Australia having missed out for a couple of years. So, I think we’re in a great place in America. Africa would be great, and I'd like to see us continue to grow in Asia.” Zak Brown concluded.
There is never going to be a lack of interest from venues wanting to hold an F1 race. Miami’s, somewhat garish nature of the event (for some) will now be followed up in Barcelona with a more traditional style of racing and event. What is great is that every race is becoming unique to its country and venue and thereby truly showcasing F1 as a global sport.
We saw in Melbourne, absence certainly made the heart grow fonder. Therefore, maybe it wouldn’t do some venues too much harm to miss out every other year. Demand will increase, the spectacle will certainly be raised but sadly one can assume prices would also find their way on the rise too. But – you can’t please everyone.