LONDON (REUTERS) - The Belgian Grand Prix's Formula One future after Sunday's race has yet to be decided but reports of its demise may be premature, the sport's chief executive Stefano Domenicali indicated on Wednesday (Aug 24).
The 2023 calendar is due to be published in October and is set to feature a record 24 rounds, with a question mark hanging over old favourites like Belgium's race at Spa-Francorchamps.
Germany has lost its grand prix and France could follow, while even Monaco's continuation as the historic showcase race has been the subject of speculation amid talk of alternation.
Asked in a video call with reporters on Wednesday about the balance between races held in and outside Europe and whether this year could see the last Belgian Grand Prix, Domenicali replied: "I saw some comment (about) something on me saying that Belgium would be the last year. I would be prudent on that comment. Very prudent."
He said Formula One wanted a balanced mix, with a third of races being held in Europe, a third in East Asia and the others in America and the Middle East, the most lucrative region of all for the sport's balance sheet.
"We are talking about a business where investments, financial contributions are very important but we have always said that the traditional races, races that we know cannot bring the money that the others are bringing, have full respect from us," he added.
"You will see that this will be respected also in the future. With Belgium, discussions are still on.
"We are in Spa this weekend so you will see them (the local promoters) a lot of times in my office."
Domenicali went to South Africa in June to discuss the possibility of that country's Kyalami circuit returning to the grand prix calendar in 2023, but the Italian said those talks remained ongoing.
"We want to have a race in Africa and today, the most likely place is South Africa," he said.
"What we are looking for are very solid and clear long-term commitments, because we cannot be there for one year and then game over.
"It's a situation that is taking time. We are going to clarify this situation in the next days but for sure the commitment to be in Africa is something that we want to take, but we want to take it right."
He said the 2024 calendar would look very different due to an early-season clash with Ramadan, affecting the scheduling of the current opening Middle Eastern races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Australia is likely to return then to the opening slot it previously held.
Domenicali also said he did not expect a female driver in F1, which last saw a woman compete in 1976, within the next five years unless there was some meteoric rise through the ranks.
Formula One is promoting the all-female W Series, with races on the support programme at selected grands prix, and Domenicali said he was happy with that.
"We believe that to be able to give the chance for girls to be at the same level with the guys, they need to be at the same age when they start to fight on the track," he added.
"We are working on that to see what we can do to improve the system. And you will see soon some action."