Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Shanghai has not had an extension on its seven-year deal begun in 2004
Shanghai has not had an extension on its seven-year deal begun in 2004

The F1 teams are on their way to Shanghai for the seventh Grand Prix in China this weekend.

But with no deal in place for a race next year, could this be F1’s last visit to Shanghai?

F1 track designer Hermann Tilke’s brief for the Shanghai International Circuit wasn’t short of ambition. Built at a cost of $350m the circuit boasts one of the largest structures in F1 and can accommodate up to 200,000.

But it’s never come close to finding that many paying spectators, and many of the fans that do go pick up cheap tickets sold on by corporate guests who are offered them for free. In recent years the large turn 12 and 13 grandstand has been converted into an giant advertising hoarding.

While Bahrain, which also joined the F1 calendar in 2004, has had its deal extended until 2013, there has been no such extension for the Chinese round.

However car manufacturers see a round in China as being important for the world championship.

In their publicity material sent out ahead of this weekend’s race Mercedes drew attention to the fact that they sell more S Class executive saloons in China than any other country. Ferrari is launching its 599 GTO at the Beijing Motor Show.

The teams are already stretched by the ever-growing ‘flyaway’ portion of the calendar. This year sees the addition of a South Korean round (the traditional rumours about the new round being cancelled were scotched yesterday) and in 2011 the teams will visit India for the first time.

Ultimately, whether China keeps its place on the calendar will most likely be decided by whether the government chooses to keep paying for it.

Can F1 afford to continue racing in China? Can it afford not to if it wants to continue to attract car manufacturers to the sport? Have your say in the comments.

Read more: Which races should Ecclestone cut? (Poll)

131 comments on “Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011”

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  1. Good job I’m going this year, then. ;)

  2. On another note, as much as F1 wants to be in China, it’s just not getting the returns it needs to get. Not enough people in the stands, not much Chinese investment in F1 (in direct contrast to Abu Dhabi or Malaysia). MotoGP had abandoned China a loooong time ago – and somehow I think F1 will follow suit.

    1. Good point about the sponsorship. Remember in the first year or two some teams ran their existing sponsors in Chinese lettering – we don’t even see that any more.

      1. McLaren have a Chinese sponsor aigo (according to Wikipedia it shouldn’t be capitalised), in English and Chinese on the cockpit behind the front wheels.

        Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other Chinese sponsors but then I only knew about the McLaren one because it is in Chinese on the car.

      2. Yeah, Honda even went as far as having a completely different livery and overalls for the Chinese round (I think this was because of the popularity of their sponsor 555 in China though).

        This picture is from the 2006 Chinese GP –

      3. Technically, Lenovo is a Chinese company. But even now, they’re no more than a minor partner at McLaren, and not like the bigger role they played at Williams in 2007/2008.

      4. John Edwards
        14th April 2010, 22:19

        You’ve make the point about car manufacturers.

        How many serious car manufacturers are in f1?

        I make it two: Renault and Merc.

        So are market forces so relevant now?

  3. I hope China stays in calendar because it´s a good track and usually gives us good racing.

    1. No. Of course rain makes it interesting, but dry China is booooring

    2. LOVE the sarcasm.

      For real, though? Good riddance.

    3. I feel it’s a good track too, I quite like the first and last few corners. It’s just that F1 cars can’t seem to be that interesting in the dry almost anywhere outside of Spa, Monza, Interlagos or Albert Park. The good races at Shanghai you’re probably talking about were 2006, 2007 and 2009, which were wet races.

      1. But its boring in dry, so its not the best place to host GP

  4. I’d call China GP a failed experiment.
    The structures are great, but the track is not that challenging, and the attendance always seemed to be poor.

    Replacing with a mid July Paul Ricard French GP would be the best, to me.
    But it’s only romance, not business.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      13th April 2010, 11:19

      We already know Manhattan and Russia are getting priority from Ecclestone.

      1. I don’t see how in the world they could race in Manhattan. Indy Cars looked at Queens back in their prime, if I remember correctly, and that never materialised. I think New Yorkers would be more outraged at traffic restrictions than excited about F1. I don’t see New Yorkers bending over backwards for Bernie, which is what he requires to host a race. Most of them didn’t want to screw with the Olympics either. Manhattan is a unique place.

    2. ‘A failed experiment’ is exactly how I’d term it.

      F1 doesn’t need to be in China. Only 3 of the teams in F1 are manufacturers that are large enough to want to break into China anyway. The other 9 don’t need to be there at all. China has no more right to be on the calendar just because of an unproven notion that it benefits the manufacturers involved in F1, and with all the small teams struggling to make ends meet, another fly-away is the last thing needed.

  5. Ideally I would like a Chinese GP because I think F1 should visit a country the size and importance of China to make it a true World Championship, which is why I welcome the idea of an Indian GP and would also like a GP in USA, Russia, and Africa.

    Because of the size of the market it should make sense to have a race in China as well.

    But on the other hand the race just doesn’t attract the spectators, does anyone know if there is much of a motorsport scene in China in general.

    1. F1 ‘should’, but if it just doesn’t work out, if they people of the country aren’t interested, which we’ve seen with the vastly empty grandstands, then there really isn’t much point.

    2. “I think F1 should visit a country the size and importance of China to make it a true World Championship”

      I disagree, I don’t think F1 should necessarily go to countries which present the largest markets for manufacturers, it should go to the countries that possess the circuits that can produce the most enteratining races. If a country like China builds a good cicruit then by all means race there but if not, F1 shouldn’t go there just to please the manufacturers or because its a new market.

  6. I dont’ want to bore everyone with the economy and politics side but China isn’t working out that great for F1 but it has a very attractive lure for car manufacturers and because China is now being considered a major power esp with regards to the economy. Bernie said he wanted races in NY etc because of their appeal, China may be costing to host a race but it could cost more not to be there. I think it’s 50/50 at the moment and I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
    On a personal note, I like the first few corners and the last one but generally it’s a track I dislike but there’s usually a chance of some rain which makes it alright :P

    1. “On a personal note, I like the first few corners and the last one but generally it’s a track I dislike but there’s usually a chance of some rain which makes it alright :P ”

      This is exactly the same for me too lol – if it wasn’t for how much it rains there, I would definitely have voted for this track to be dropped in Keith’s poll the other day.

  7. it starts at a tedious time of day for us here at the centre of the known universe but it does show the folly of following the lucre. F1 has destroyed one circuit in Donnington and several others that always sold out are no longer on the calendar. In all likelehood they will never return as it’ll be be too expensive to upgrade them back up to standard.

    TV doesnt like empty grandstands so if you goto new territories you have to take the tracks to the people not put them in the middle of nowhere. Valencia is great in principle, ok the track is dire but its a very attractive place to put on a grand prix.

  8. Such a shame, im sure the 4 people who go every year will be gutted.

    Ive always seen chinese architecture as a whole (the new stuff anyway), to be all style over substance. The track is a classic example.

    Im bored of F1 chasing ‘new markets’ that don’t care, is there any really need, other then money?

  9. I think China will be there, as they one of the power house in asia & the car companies may just be able to pull this race.

    But it’s true the most expensive F1 track in the world with one of the largest spectator capacity it will be a real shame if we miss this GP.

    1. Problem is though Wasi, the capacity for spectators is never met by the demand. Imagine if the massive grandstand was at Silverstone or Spa or Monza?

      Aside from the enormous straight and the turn 2/3 curl-and-switchback, I don’t particularly hold any great feelings for China.

      1. @ James_mc

        Totally agree with you.The biggest capacity tracks are mainly situated here in Asia.China have a capacity of 200,000 whereas Monza have 137,000 & Silverstone only 125,000. Not sure about Spa but may be between 110-125 000.

        This things should be kept into consideration by the organizer (or whoever is responsible for this ) to have more seats in places where F1 is more popular.

  10. I can see China taking a shared slot, alternating with India or perhaps Korea. I think India would like that and it would probably suit China too.

  11. Chinese are the most extreme capitalists. If it doesn’t make them money, they will drop it like a hot potato.

    On the other hand, the Chinese do understand that if the government invests money, it will reap the rewards in the form of improved economy. It’s amazing how they invest in large scale infrastructure programs to create thriving industries.

    It’s nice having a GP for propaganda purposes, but if you have to hand over tens of millions to some greedy old guy then in the end you do want something in return.

  12. Why would India like that?

  13. I don’t care about politics. I only care about the track, which is boring apart from turn 1.
    So yes, they can dump the chinese round.

    1. which is pretty much a carbon copy of malaysias turn 1 isnt it?

  14. Anyone here know any more about the Zhu hai circuit? It’s located not far from Hong Kong (I think an hr by ferry), but still in mainland China, where I believe you would attract a lot of people from. And its even closer to Macao. I went there shortly after it was built many years ago but not sure how much work would be required to bring it up to f1 standards. You might think that would be an odd location but between the populations of HK, Macao and ShenZhen near by, you’d be tapping into a market bigger then Shanghai and a lot more European expats. Just my 2 cents from living in HK back in the day. Keen to know if anyone on here knows more about the circuit.

    1. Robert McKay
      13th April 2010, 12:33

      I don’t know much about Zhuhai other than it once appeared on a provisional F1 calendar, back a while now (perhaps 1999/2000-time?).

      Can’t remember exactly why, I think it might have been a potential replacement for another race…but obviously it never went ahead.

      If anyone else remembers better, please fill in the (big) gaps…

      1. Really slow and tight. I remember it being a bit like TI Aida…

        1. It’s an incredibly boring circuit if you ask me – worse than Shanghai, layout-wise at least. However, looking at the layout it’s hard to see how it could be improved sufficiently. Unfortunately that’s the case with many tracks considered “bad” (and that includes most of the TilkeDromes) – you hate their routes, but it’s almost impossible to make them any better.

      2. According to Wiki, “ZIC was included in the provisional 1999 F1 calendar. But the circuit subsequently lost its place in the calendar due to logistical problems.”

      3. Although the Zhuhai circuit was built with the ambition of hosting F1 races, it didn’t do enough homework and not enough investment to make it F1 ready. But never say never, if there’s ambition and money, it can be renovated.

  15. The Shanghai Sport Official has told the newspaper, that there is a 95% possibility to extent the race for another 14 years with the current price. But the only change they want to make is, they don’t want to pay the extra TV broadcast expenses and the negotiation with Bernie is still running.

  16. Had a look on Google Earth…
    The track looks a bit boring, and not suited for F1 standard (short run off areas with no tarmac, no grandstands, no major access roads…).

  17. Was talking about Zhuhai.

  18. Get rid and bring back Imola imo.

    1. I would get rid of China and have a second race in Italy, GB or Germany.

    2. That’s it! Replace a boring track with another boring track!

      Sorry, but Imola hasn’t been the same since ’95.

      1. Imola may be boring but you be sure that the atmosphere in Imola will be better then in China.

  19. get rid of it. China don’t respect human rights, they kill hundreds of people a year, they are number one in knock-off merchandise, money used for terrorism all over the world. And doesn’t have any history in the sport.

    1. Those highly biaed posts are a bit annoying. Some people like to link sport with politics.Especially if that sport is held in China.
      A bit ridiculous what he has said.
      Keith,you should sometimes control those posts to keep the site clean.

      1. Apart from the terrorist bit though, all of what he said is true (and maybe even the terrorist bit, I don’t know). That F1 should go to places like this for the sake of money is pretty bad to me as an F1 fan, and I think the guy’s made a very valid point, even if you have issues with the presentation.

        Italy might not be corruption-free, but it’s no China. I’m sorry if bringing up what China does is offensive, but they do it.

        1. “That F1 should go to places like this for the sake of money is pretty bad to me as an F1 fan…”

          ??? This is a business. They do everything for money.

          1. This is a business

            Exactly what’s wrong with F1, if even fans say it. F1 is also a business, not “also a sport”.

      2. that’s called censorship. Are you from the chinese goverment?

        1. Hahahaha! funny man! funny man!

          Your post was on the extreme side, not that I nessasarily disagree, but at the very least you should be allowed to voice your biased opinion just as shen is allowed to voice his biased opinion!
          Some people just don’t like fair play do they now? Didn’t you learn that in pre school?

  20. HounslowBusGarage
    13th April 2010, 13:08

    While China might be over-interested in Formula 1, it seems that Mercedes and Audi are hoping the Chinese public will appreciate DTM a bit more.
    The final race of the 2010 season will take place on a street circuit in Shanghai (no track details yet) on 31 October.
    Obviously DTM cars are rather more identifiable with their road cousins than F1 cars, and the two German marques appreciate the importance of the market.
    A race in the city will force the citizens to take some notice – and there are more than 18 million of them in Shanghai.
    Let’s hope it’s a bit more successful than the 2004 exhibition race when an unwelded drain cover was pulled up by one of the cars (Schneider?) and caused the race to be stopped. Paffet was declared the winner.

    1. They had a similar problem in the 2005 F1 race, where one KO-d Montoya’s chances.

    2. V8 Supercars tried that also, in 2006 I think. They held one round at Shanghai, ostensibly to a. attract new fans to the sport thereby increasing TV audiences and b. boost Australia’s export market of V6 & V8 passenger cars to China. About 3 people showed up, the round was a dismal failure and the race was very quickly and quietly dropped from the following years calendar.

      While I can see why F1 might treat China as a ‘loss leader’, I remain unconvinced of the benefits for any other racing category.

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