AUGUST 10, 1998
Bernie and Nelson Mandela
BERNIE ECCLESTONE will meet South African President Nelson Mandela later this month to discuss a South African GP in 1999. At the moment the race is not included in Ecclestone's draft calendar and the recent approval by the South African cabinet of anti-tobacco legislation, coupled with another fall in the value of the rand, would suggest that a race is unlikely to happen.
The Tobacco Amendment Bill will go to South Africa's parliament later this year for ratification but may be amended to allow F1 cars to run with tobacco liveries. We would expect that Ecclestone will insist that F1 be exempted from the ban when he meets Mandela and the South African sports minister Steve Tshwete on August 19.
Selwyn Nathan, who has organized South Africa's Grand Prix bid in his role as chairman of AA Racing, a subsidiary of the Automobile Association of South Africa, has already agreed a preliminary deal with Ecclestone but there are no guarantees of a race and Bernie is unlikely to give way over the tobacco issue as he has enough races in the calendar already. At the moment there are 17 dates on the 1999 calendar but it is possible that Ecclestone will extend the series to 18 races if an agreement can be made. The race would take place at Kyalami, near Johannesburg, probably at the end of the season.
The draft calendar is expected to be announced at the start of October and is expected to feature 17 races: the current 16 plus a race in Malaysia in October. A major shake-up of the calendar will not now take place until the year 2000.
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