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As a black African from native Botswana, I found it very uncommon the talk to my peers, friends and the entire community about the world of motor sport especially formula 1. There is literally very little knowledge about this sport particularly that all F1 events are hosted overseas, in Europe, Americas, Asia etc. In to African continent, F1 motor sport is not promoted nor advertised rigorously as other sporting events/codes like soccer, athletics etc. My aim here is to rally on and create a platform for advertisement, provide in-depth knowledge in F1 motor sport to my native countrymen (Botswana) and the entire African continent. The journey begins with my humble beginnings and the love for motor sport as early as 1996 when I was an undergraduate student at our only University of Botswana.
My Passion for Motorsport
It all started during my teen years after moving over to the city of Gaborone in the late 80s, joining my dad who was working there at Bank of Botswana as a driver. This was an opportunity for me to start seeing a lot of different vehicles in the streets of the capital city. I used to hang around a lot (outside school hours) with my teen mates playing with homemade vehicular toys and attending weekend film broadcasts at cinemas. This motor gaming part was taken to another level, when our group started now playing competitive video games as we switched on to high school. Unfortunately we moved in different directions at the end of our high school years. To cut the story short, around 1994/1995, at varsity level I reignited the passion on motor sport by browsing the internet, which was very limited in terms of accessibility and affordability. Well I was not aware that there was or there is a motor racing sport simply called Formula One.
I have known soccer events like World Cups, Olympics, Tennis etc, but this formula 1 “thing” was strange and unfamiliar to me and yet exciting to watch. So I had to read materials on the sport, rules and regulations, calendar events, participants (teams), drivers, engine manufacturers etc. What really struck me most was the speed at which these cars attained, braking ability at high speeds, technological masterpiece and not to mention the drivers behind the wheels. To date, I have watched almost 80% of all formula 1 races on television and supported my team all along. But yet non of these races have ever been held in Africa as far as my memory serves me. Well, what keeps me hopeful and encouraged is to fact that we have a six times world champion black driver in Formula One, in the form of Lewis Hamilton (#LH44).
History of F1 Motorsport – my own understanding
My own limited history in motor sport is that this event started in to 1920s through the 1930s (mostly in Europe) known as Formula A championship. It was shelved thereafter due to the Second World War (WWII) but later ignited in the 1950s as Formula 1 championship. Very few teams/manufacturers such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and ALFA romeo competed due to high costs and accidents.
This led to the formation of the governing body in the form of Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) which laid out rules and regulations for the entire motor racing fraternity. Manufacturers like LOTUS joined in to 1970s, Mclaren and Williams in to 1980s, and Toyota, Renault completed the line up.
As far as history tells, a number of elite drivers had won the world championships with different motoring brands; Juan Manuel Fangio (different manufacturers – 1950s), Jim Clark, Jackie Steward, Graham Hill, Niki Lauda and others (1960s – 1970s). The early 1980s show the dominance of Ferrari in partnership with the skillful drivers such as Nelson Piquet, Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. Mclaren concluded the late 1980s and early 1990s with the crafted speed and skill of both Anton Senna and Alain Prost. The most ‘recently remembered’ by most millennial is the dominance of Ferrari in the 20th century catapulted by the only Michael Schumacher.
The progressive evolution, regulation changes and safety standards in F1 motor racing made the sport lucrative commercially. The fact that F1 has a large fan base around the globe, it is very appropriate to reiterate that why is not held in the African continent.
Benefits of hosting F1 event – African perspective
Well from my little knowledge of a Formula 1 motor sport event, there are naturally more benefits to the host country that could far exceed the list below:
- infrastructure development – roads, racing circuits, airports, hotels, restuarants
- motor tourism – motor shows, auctions, currency exchange
- TV advertisement rights
- Leisure – national tourist event
- Retail centres – Tickets, games, merchandise
- Young driver development structures and facilities
- Knowledge and information sharing
- Donations to the needy and other NGOs
The list goes on and on, but what is important is to create awareness platform to the vast potential fans, advertisement,and convince governments and F1 CEOs and larger global fanbase that hosting F1 in Africa is possible and viable if the right mind set and approach is put to work. This may not necessarily be targeting the groups mentioned above but rather, it is looking at the entire F1 fanbase and the newbies as well.
Technology in Formula 1
It has come to my understanding that Formula 1 cars have the leading edge technology and sophisticated softwares that are mostly not available to road cars. The sport is basically a trend setter when it comes to technology advancement in the motor industry. This makes the sport very exciting and I always wonder what comes next at the the beginning of each season. The party begins with DRS (drag resistance system), aerodynamics, wheel guns, rear diffusers, tyre technology, steering wheel technology, energy recovery harvesting, braking systems, exhaust and hydraulics systems, the list is just endless. So the intention and ultimate goal is to experience this at our own backyard, or given a chance f1 fans must visit the factories where these cars are manufactured.
It is my utmost desire as a dedicated formula 1 fan, to attract as many fans as I can, sell the sport to any African government including Botswana,fans around the globe, to be in the forefront on the journey to host this prestigious event. My plea also rest with the FIA to expand the F1 fanbase and extend their footprint on the AFrican continent and elsewhere where F1 is little known. The benefits are enormous and long lasting. Am personally available to assist the F1 teams, media and advertising agencies to explore and rich out the potential African fanbase.