Hamilton wants F1 return to Africa as well as US expansion

Hamilton wants F1 return to Africa as well as US expansion
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Seven times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday welcomed the sport’s expansion in the United States but called also for a return to South Africa.

Formula One last raced at the Kyalami circuit, north of Johannesburg, in 1993 but there have been talks about a return.

Chloe Targett-Adams, the sport’s head of race promotion, said in February that racing in Africa was a priority.

Miami is meanwhile scheduled to become the second US race next year, along with Austin, Texas, and there has been talk of an eventual third grand prix in Las Vegas.

“The place that I really feel is dear to my heart and most important for me is to get a race back in South Africa,” Hamilton told reporters at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas ahead of Sunday’s grand prix.

“I think there’s a great following out there and it would be great to be able to highlight just how beautiful the motherland is,” added the sport’s only Black driver.

Formula One last week published a record 23-race calendar for next year, with Miami in May and Austin in October.

READ: Verstappen is F1’s fan favourite, McLaren most popular team

“The US Grand Prix is fantastic and it is such a huge country, having just one race here for sure isn’t enough to really be able to tap into the sporting culture here,” said Hamilton.

“I think definitely you need to have at least two. But there are so many great cities to have a grand prix. Miami is incredible as is Austin. I don’t know about the next one but I’m not opposed to that.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who joined Hamilton in the round of driver press conferences, said he would also like to see three US races in future.

“I think Formula One is getting bigger and bigger in the last years thanks to the Netflix season here and I can definitely feel it and see it,” he said, referring to the popular ‘Drive to Survive’ documentary series.

“It’s great to be here and I would be very happy to have a third race here. And I agree with Lewis on Africa in general.”

Hamilton and Verstappen close on track, distant off it

Title rivals Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been close on track all season, at times too close, but otherwise they are keeping their distance.

Hamilton, six points behind Red Bull’s Verstappen after 16 of 22 races, had little to say when asked how the relationship had changed as the title fight intensifies.

“We have limited communication…some of the drivers hang more than others do. I wouldn’t say I particularly hang closely with anybody here,” said the Briton, who has battled wheel-to-wheel and collided with the Dutchman.

“Like last year, we will see each other at the track and we’ll say hi. We’ll do the same thing this year and it’s no different to me personally.”

READ: F1: Vettel to take grid penalty in Austin after engine change

Verstappen has won seven races to Hamilton’s five this year but Austin has been much more a Mercedes track than Red Bull in recent years.

Hamilton has won five of the eight races held in Austin and Mercedes have been on pole for the last six at the Circuit of the Americas.

This year could be a lot closer, however, and Hamilton, winner of a record 100 career races, recognised the next one in Mexico could also be tough.

Asked how important it was to win in Austin, Hamilton said it was important to win every race.

“It will be incredibly difficult. There will be moments where perhaps we can edge them out…I don’t like to assume that Mexico is not going to be strong but they are usually very strong in Mexico,” said the Briton.

“A lot can happen in these six races and so I think we just take it one race at a time and then give it everything we’ve got.”

Verstappen dismissed a suggestion he might be on a roll after seizing back the lead in Turkey two weeks ago, a race won comfortably enough by Hamilton’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas.

“We know that we still have a bit of work to do. We want to be faster,” he said. “The team result was good in Turkey, the overall performance wasn’t amazing.”



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