Let's not kid ourselves: motorsport's major players, particularly those in Formula 1, have long permitted the sport to be used for political propaganda purposes, and any pretence to the contrary is disingenuous.
Forget Hitler's races, for proof look no further than apartheid South Africa. For many years F1, then effectively ruled by a Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone-dominated FOCA, was the only world sport to venture on the country's soil. The repressive government offered 'export marketing' (double) tax breaks to entities prepared to publicise the country, which were exploited then by sponsors and race promoters alike.
The 1985 South African GP, blighted by drivers and teams withdrawing on flimsy grounds to avoid controversy, was the last held before Nelson Mandela's release. Thereafter South Africa was struck off the calendar, but only after Australian cargo handlers refused to off-load F1's kit, proclaiming it 'tainted'. The race's replacement? The 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix, beyond the Iron Curtain, in a country under Soviet control...
Then, midway between Mandela's February 1990 walk to freedom and the country's first free elections a little over four years later, the still-racial country hosted 1992 and '93 grands prix under the banner of 'nation building' - coincidentally or not, South Africa has not since had F1 cars race on its soil.
Get back on track. Join today for unlimited access to all Autosport news and features.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from monthly, yearly and two-yearly packages.
South African-born Dieter trained as industrial engineer before holding down a variety of senior motor industry marketing and manufacturing positions. At the age of 40 he decided to follow his passion, and became the first and only South African journalist to cover Formula 1 regularly. Dieter joined AtlasF1 at the beginning of 2004 – a year prior to its merger with Autosport – and his regular column offers an intriguing analysis of F1’s politicking and commercial chicanery. Although now also proudly Belgian, he gives his domicile as "Wherever F1 duplicity lurks".@RacingLines More features by Dieter Rencken