As the first race of the season, there were a number of changes since 1970.
- Brabham: had a new BT33 chassis for new driver Graham Hill, but the new model BT34 was not yet complete. Jack Brabham was no longer involved with the team, having sold his share to Ron Tauranac after his retirement at the end of 1970.
- BRM: The brand new first chassis of the P160 model arrived for Pedro Rodríguez, who, despite the lack of testing, was very optimistic about it.
- Ferrari came in on a high, having won four of the final six races in 1970, and having upgraded to a 312B2 model. Mario Andretti was going to attend as many races as his USAC schedule would permit. But after some early success the cars became less and less reliable, and for a while they went back to the 1970 cars.
- Lotus retained Emerson Fittipaldi and Reine Wisell from 1970, but the shock of losing Jochen Rindt meant that the team carried out very little development in the off season, and it was not until the French and British GPs that the team started to make headway again. The introduction of completely slick Firestone tires had a negative effect on the handling, which Colin Chapman was slow to realize.
- March: The team had a brand new model 711 for all three drivers, featuring a much stiffer monocoque than the old 701 model, and a spectacular oval "tea tray" front wing, mounted above and forward of the nose of the car. At least one of the cars would run each race in 1971 with an Alfa Romeo engine, and financial support from Autodelta.
- Matra had a new driver Chris Amon and car (MS120B), but still no return to the success of 1968-69. Jean-Pierre Beltoise was not present at Kyalami, due to having his racing license suspended for causing the accident that killed Ignazio Giunti at the 1000km of Buenos Aires in January. The team did not replace him during his suspension.
- McLaren: Arrived with a new model (M19A) for Denny Hulme.
- Tyrrell: Arrived full of optimism, with a new team name incorporating primary sponsor Elf, and a new chassis (002) for François Cevert. The original 001 car had undergone more than 2,000 km of testing in the off season, and the team had made several upgrades, and improved the car's reliability. A third chassis would be ready for Jackie Stewart at Spain.
The full entry list for the 1971 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
The full qualifying results for the 1971 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||9||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:17.8||1:19.4||1:18.1||—|
|5||2||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:21.2||1:19.1||1:19.1||+1.3s|
|6||20||John Surtees||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:20.7T||1:20.5||1:19.1||+1.3s|
|7||11||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.8||1:20.4||1:19.1||+1.3s|
|9||10||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||—||1:19.5||1:19.2||+1.4s|
|11||12||Peter Gethin||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.2||1:20.6||1:19.6||+1.8s|
|12||15||Dave Charlton||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:21.1||1:20.8||1:19.8||+2.0s|
|13||7||Ronnie Peterson||March-Ford Cosworth||1:19.9||1:20.6||1:20.1||+2.1s|
|14||3||Reine Wisell||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:21.4||1:20.6||1:19.9||+2.1s|
|15||21||Rolf Stommelen||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:20.9||1:21.2||1:20.1||+2.3s|
|17||28||Brian Redman||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:20.2||+2.4s|
|18||22||Henri Pescarolo||March-Ford Cosworth||—||1:21.6||1:20.2||+2.4s|
|19||14||Graham Hill||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:20.7||1:20.5||1:21.1||+2.7s|
|20||25||Jackie Pretorius||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:22.9||—||1:21.7||+3.9s|
|21||24||John Love||March-Ford Cosworth||—||1:22.4||1:21.9||+4.1s|
|22||8||Andrea de Adamich||March-Alfa Romeo||1:26.4||1:22.2||1:22.4||+4.4s|
|23||23||Jo Bonnier||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:24.6||1:23.1||1:22.3||+4.5s|
|25||26||Alex Soler-Roig||March-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.8||+8.0s|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
|Andrea de Adamich||23|
The full results for the 1971 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- This was Mario Andretti's first Formula One victory. With this win he also became the first person ever to win the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and a Formula One race.
- Debut for Howden Ganley.
- 'South Africa 1971: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1971/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed, 19/07/2020)
- 'South Africa 1971: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1971/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed, 19/07/2020)
- A.M., '1971 South African Grand Prix Race Report', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/04/1971), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/april-1971/44/fifth-south-african-grand-prix, (Accessed, 19/07/2020)
- 'South Africa 1971: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1971/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed, 19/07/2020)
|V T E||South African Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Prince George Circuit (1934–1963), Kyalami Circuit (1965-1993)|
|Championship Races||1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986–1991 • 1992 • 1993|
|Non-championship races||1934 • 1936 • 1937 • 1938 • 1939 • 1960 • 1960 • 1961 • 1966 • 1981|
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