South African GP: F1 closes in on deal for return of race

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The grid at the Azerbaijan Grand PrixMax Verstappen won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the weekend

Formula 1 is closing in on a deal for the return of a race in South Africa next year.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali flew to South Africa from Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix to meet with representatives of the Kyalami circuit.

Insiders say an agreement is some weeks from completion but the target is to secure a date in 2023.

Kyalami, a fixture on the calendar in the 1970s and early 1980s, last held a South African Grand Prix in 1993.

There has been no F1 race in Africa since then, and it has been an ambition of commercial rights holders Liberty Media to secure one.

If a deal can be reached in South Africa, F1 could hold as many as 24 races next year, which would be the longest season in history.

However, that could depend on whether China is able to return the calendar as planned.

China has not hosted a grand prix since the coronavirus pandemic started, and its place on next year's calendar remains in doubt because Covid-19 continues to be a major concern in the country.

If the South African race happens, it is not clear when in the season it would be held.

But it is likely to mean the Belgian Grand Prix at historic Spa-Francorchamps would drop off the calendar.

F1 has already confirmed a new race in Las Vegas next season, likely to be held in November.

If both China and South Africa happen in 2023, Belgium is top of the list to make way.

Although Spa is regarded as one of the finest drivers' circuits in the world and holds classic status, F1 is concerned that the track's infrastructure and facilities are out of place following recent developments at other circuits.

The return of Zandvoort in the Netherlands last year was a hit, and F1 feels it can represent that region of Europe successfully without the need for Spa, the loss of which would likely upset devoted fans of the sport.

If Spa was removed from the calendar next season, it would not necessarily be the end for the event - it could become one of a number of races that rotate through the calendar from year to year.

Monaco is another classic race that is under threat for next season, because of dissatisfaction at F1 with a number of aspects of the running of the event.

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