Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011

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)

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131 comments on Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011

  1. Maybe Renault need to promote Ho Pin Tung to a race seat. Then give him all the advantages over his team mate. Then when he becomes sucessful, the grandstands will be packed.

    • DGR-F1 said on 13th April 2010, 15:39

      I was thinking along the same lines – isn’t a Chinese driver or two required to get the general interest up in the country?

    • arale said on 13th April 2010, 20:11

      As a Chinese myself, I couldn’t care less if there is a Chinese driver on the line-up. Tung is never anywhere near an F1 driver. As a fan, I would rather see real talents on the track rather than an mixture of politically correct choices based on demographics.

  2. KevRS said on 13th April 2010, 15:17

    If it’s not filling up the grandstands like it was supposed to then by all means it should be axed. There’s nothing worse than a race with no atmosphere and we all know only overflowing crowds can provide that.

    But I must say the actual track itself is quite a challenge on rFactor.

  3. Well, everyone complaining about the track being boring should look at Valencia and Barcelona. Now those are snoozefests! The Chinese circuit provides some overtaking opportunities and has a challenging turn 1, unlike the above-mentioned venues and the races there are quite exciting.

    As for Bahrain, which was rated down in one of the previosu articles, I suggest getting a copy of the 2006 race. Would anyone call it boring? If so, you know next to nothing about racing.

    • David A said on 14th April 2010, 3:14

      It’s this year’s track configuration that was boring. The other races in Bahrain were alright.

  4. Hallard said on 13th April 2010, 15:34

    This is just a symptom of the larger problem, and no Im not talking about the lack of overtaking. Bernie charges too much for the right to host a GP, which means that in most cases it simply isnt a profitable venture. While this is happening, F1’s marketability is being diminished ever further by many things, but the main reason is arguably the contemptuos treatment of the fans. F1 needs to be much more accessible to viewers and fans. Artificial and gimmicky constraints in the interest of spicing up the spectacle should be removed, technical and sporting regs should be more stable from year-to-year, and new mediums of broadcast (i.e. HD) and access (e.g. a much greater internet presence) should be embraced. Bernie is too old, senile, and greedy to see that F1 can only be healed with a holistic approach and anything else is just a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Forget “improving the show”; how about “improving the sport”?!

  5. Zazeems said on 13th April 2010, 15:37

    I think it would probably be good for Formula One if the Chinese round was dropped. It would clear up space for the new rounds that Bernie is chasing and would take pressure off traditional venues.

    I accept that there is the argument that manufacturers want to market their vehicles in China, but they aren’t exactly getting a lot of publicity racing in front of an exceptionally small crowd, on a circuit which the majority of fans dissaprove of.

    If a grand prix had to take place in China, I would agree with suggestions earlier that the Zhuhai circuit would be good. It looks like a refreshingly simple layout, and would be up to standard with six months work, maybe new grandstands, paddock and infastructure, and extending a couple of gravel traps.

    • arale said on 13th April 2010, 20:13

      Zhuhai seems to be deal for me. It’s near to both Hong Kong and Macau, and ppl there love racing more than Shanghaiese…

  6. macahan said on 13th April 2010, 15:56

    Considering that North America wasn’t “important” enough for FIA/FOM to keep on the calendar a few years back and this is a place that is huge in form of car sales and sponsors (Intel, AMD, HP, UST Global, Mobile 1, CNN, Texaco, Clear, Reuters, AT&T, 7-Eleven) to rack up what current and very recent past sponsors that have North American HQ that I can think of. So to me it just say that FIA/FOM don’t care where the races are based on where the sponsors are located or the markets the sponsors are interested in. Looking from Car manufactures consider that up until 09 US was the biggest Car market in the world and now surpassed by China this doesn’t seem to bare into account either.
    If sponsor/car mfg sales location and interest would really be taken into account by FIA/FOM you wouldn’t expect to see North America to been completely without a race in 2009, and only 1 race in 08 and 10 (in Canada). You would think they would done anything and everything to ensure there was at least 1, 2 if not actually 3 races there.

    So why would China count from sponsor deals, car manufacturer interest or general sponsor interest? Bernie does what Bernie want and put races where he can suck money out of local government and organizers without head to sponsor interest nor fans or else why do we still have Turkey on the calendar? And soon Korea when big China can’t even fill their grandstands.

  7. Mark Shen said on 13th April 2010, 16:46

    Honestly speaking, chinese GP is just used to entertain the local people (Shanghai citizen) und chinese. It’s not necesary to take care of other people ‘s feelings. And FIA actually doesn’t care how people or the “real” fans feel. If you think it’s boring, then turn off the TV und don’t watch it. It’s simple. Unless you are in charge of FOM, you can do nothing. So, i wonder why people always complain this and that. If you are a real fan, why don’t work hard and bring your family to attend these GPs? If you sit in an empty grandstand and enjoy watching and hearing F1 with your family, who cares it’ s boring or not?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th April 2010, 22:46

      chinese GP is just used to entertain the local people (Shanghai citizen) und chinese. It’s not necesary to take care of other people ’s feelings.

      Yes it is – millions more people see the race on television worldwide than watch at the track, and the same goes for any other race on the calendar.

      So, i wonder why people always complain this and that.

      This is the first time in a while F1 has gone to a race which doesn’t have a contract for a Grand Prix the following year. It’s certainly worth asking whether F1 will be back again next year – and whether it should be.

  8. Robert McKay said on 13th April 2010, 16:58

    The thing about places like China is that they are so incredibly populous, even if you barely scratch the surface of the country’s conscience, you can still reach/add a hell of a lot of people.

    Even if the money is arguably not flowing like expected a small Chinese influence will still inevitably equate to a noticeable factor in things like TV viewing figures, etc…

    It’s all relative, like (purely for example, not relevance) how although Indy was never even remotely full for F1 compared to for the 500 it was still a massive crowd by F1 comparisons.

    • Wasn’t one of the reasons why Indy never looked full because they didn’t open all the grandstands due to the circuit layout F1 used?

      • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 21:34

        last race in Indy had 100k in the crowd more then some tracks have seating capacity for or max capacity for other tracks. Indy can get in more then 200k not sure exactly the number. First F1 race in Indy had 200k in the crowd. So yeah if you have 200k capacity and only have 100k in attendance it will look a bit empty compared say if you have a track that can have 80k but with 60k in attendance (3/4 full vs 1/2).

        Bring back Indy. I’ll be there for sure.

    • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 22:17

      http://www.ibj.com/speedway-f1-negotiating-to-return-race-to-indianapolis/PARAMS/article/18684

      Indy might be back. Last year they raced there “only” had 100k crowd which is more then many other tracks can support or as many as they can support the first race but hey it already on it’s 2nd races so I guess they figured this engine will be one of the 2 race engines. But consider they used #1 and #2 in Bahrain, they are already in a bad engine situation unless they can reuse #1 for at least 1 or 2 races.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th April 2010, 22:48

        I’m afraid that article’s a month old and those rumours have been put down since then. Ecclestone thinks Indianapolis is “the wrong crowd and the wrong people”:

        Ecclestone still chasing New York dream

        • macahan said on 14th April 2010, 16:12

          Bummer.. Would been sweet. street races can be fun to watch but most of them allows for little overtaking and a NY race Ecclestone is talking about sounds like another streetrace. Melbourne and Canada are the only two “street races” that allows for good racing with lot of overtaking of the current street races and they are really not true street races. Barcelona is the only race that is not a street race that provides as few overtaking as the current streetraces such as Valencia, Monaco and Singapore. Monaco 9, Valencia 2, Singapore 6 (average dry). It’s interesting I think that Monaco has so many considering it’s so old and very narrow compared to Singapore and Valencia. But I guess the numbers get skewed because of 80’s races that saw a lot more overtaking.

          Personal I hope no more street races are added to the calendar unless there is big chance or guarantee of rain ;)

        • donwatters said on 14th April 2010, 17:28

          As much as I enjoyed attending a couple of F1 races at Indy…I’m afraid Bernie is correct. I’ve been to Monaco and the vibe is totally different.

    • macahan said on 13th April 2010, 22:20

      sorry about the double posts seems site is experience issues. I had refreshed between two two big post but the first one didn’t show so wrote it again becuase I thought I might forgotten to submit it before I left for lunch.. Hmmm actually the post with the link and text I wrote BEFORE I left for lunch yet it’s time stamped later… shrug…

  9. Get rid of Bernie Ecclestone, F1 might flourish again.

  10. I think the point has been made well already: In terms of economy and business, it makes sense to have a Chinese round of the world championship. It’s interesting to see, however, that the race hasn’t been as successful commercially as one could have expected it to be.

    Personally, I wouldn’t miss the track that much, although I think turn one with the ever tightening radius and then the direction change could be considered the most interesting rendition of this modern type of corner.

    • Icthyes said on 13th April 2010, 19:18

      It’s also a blatant copy of Turn 1 at Malaysia. one of the reasons I’m glad Donington didn’t keep F1 is that the first section was almost the same as the Nurburgring’s. Tilke has little imagaination, it seems.

  11. YeaMon said on 13th April 2010, 19:24

    F1 needs a new track NOT designed by Herman Tilke. Problem solved.

    The man has designed some decent tracks, but the dullness has gone to far. Or have Tilke build a track in a country with actual motor racing interest. France, The States, hell even Scandinavia have more racing interest than any Asian country has shown. I want a world championship of course, but why race in countries that have shown little interest in your product?

    Here’s another thing that gets me. Why go balls to the wall with the track design and architecture? I know appearance is important into drawing in crowds. China’s facilities are incredible, but now there’s a chance they’ll go completely wasted. Make a track, put up some fairly nice seats and if after two years with good sales, then go crazy with the facilities. F1 needs to make this point to the fans, let them know if they show up you’ll make that track beautiful. Of course this will never happen, but with the lack of attendance with the newer tracks it’s worth a try! In order for F1 to be successful in the Asian countries they are going to need to think outside the box.

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 13th April 2010, 20:50

    There was a rumour a couple of years ago that the authorities wanted to move the Grand Prix from Shanghai to Beijing. The supposed venue is a ready paved track next to the Laoshan Velodrome where the Beijing Olympic bike races were held. Have a look at it on Google Maps. It’s got a nice wide start/finish straight, fast turns, slow turns, an infield loop with a hairpin, even chicanes all ready. It’s a nice wide road that winds through a park and goes absolutely nowhere, at the moment I think it’s being used as a driving training centre. It’s about 5 km all round, all it needs are grandstands and pits because the Velodrome medical and media centre are all there.
    This is definitely a race track in waiting. But waiting for what? The Chinese Grand Prix?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th April 2010, 22:26

      It’s not the same one A1 Grand Prix raced on is it – the one where the hairpin was so tight the cars couldn’t get around it?

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 13th April 2010, 23:06

        No, definitely not. That *was* a semi-street circuit where the track went away on one side of a dual carriageway before trying to negotiate a 180 degree turn onto the opposite carriageway in the same way as the Norrisring. But it’s absolutely not this one.
        The real test is to have a look at the Google Maps or Google Earth version for Laoshan Velodrome and then look at the park cicuit/training course. This is a real road course with elevation changes and a variety of corner radii. I’m trying to find the source of the original Chinese reasoning behind building the road. Very roughly it followed the BMX couse from the Beijing Olympics, but the fact that it was then paved (asphalted) and visibly completed leads me to believe that this is an intended Moto GP/Inycar/Formula 1/goodness-knows-what race track.

  13. stren said on 13th April 2010, 22:29

    Get rid of it; Terrible track with poor attendance and viewing time

    • Jessie1276 said on 14th April 2010, 11:04

      Poor attendance doesn’t mean there aren’t enough F1 fanatics out there. Actually, they love F1 just as much as u r,if not more.Terrible viewing time? I’m sure Chinese GP is not the only one.

  14. gpfan said on 13th April 2010, 22:51

    Oh gosh. There are so many things wrong with some of the posts.

    F1 needs four places. China, India, Russia, and of course, America.

    Even if the stands are not full for the first few years, or that there are only three manufacturers, or that the organizers are losing money (FOM should then offer to share in that loss), F1 needs these markets!

    Why? D’uh! Futures. Think snooker, or football.

    How many people in China? 3737756 Billion?

    How many have been to Madrid or Manchester?
    Two?

    How many have Real or United jerseys?
    68676 Billion?

    I rest my case. The other markets are similar.

    • We’ve been there for 6 years by this weekend, but crowds have gone down, not up. If anything, we should be focusing on an F1 return to the US rather than China.

    • Icthyes said on 14th April 2010, 3:52

      That’s assuming a sport can turn up in China and magically make millions in profit. F1 clearly hasn’t done that in China. In the case of football and snooker, there was already a significant, growing support base. Did F1 have one before it started going to China?

      If Aussie Rules football turned up in the glorious untapped market of the UK, would you expect them to sell 30 million team jerseys? They’d be lucky to sell 30.

      In snooker there was a big debate about accepting a bid by a Middle Eastern country to host the world championship instead of the Crucible in Sheffield, England (for a massive payment, of course). Unsurprisingly the idea was blasphemy to many, but others said “why don’t we have a separate tournament there for a few years, and if snooker becomes popular there, we’ll move the world championships?”. What F1 did with China and is continuing to do so in every new country it visits is the former instead of the latter (the equivalent would be GP2/Asia, F2, F3, etc. for a few years to see if there was any interest), and the emptiness of the circuits and the lack of an explosion in support for F1 in these countries is a direct consequence.

      Potential does not equal necessity to exploit or attempt to exploit. And if exploiting markets was the real reason F1 id going to these countries in the first place, then my name’s Bernard Ecclestone.

  15. Gman said on 13th April 2010, 22:59

    If the race were to drop off the calendar, I wouldn’t be crying very much…..

    I can understand that the manufacturers and sponsors want to be in a highly-populated and constantly-growing market. But the event appears so unpopular and/or inaccessible to the local population, that I really question if this was the best way to introduce China to F1. For as much as I dislike street races, I must wonder if sending a Grand Prix through Beijing would be a way better idea- at least that way the public is forced to pay attention to some degree.

    For me, the bottom line is MotoGP. I have heard that the Shanghai track was ill-suited to motorcycle racing, and I have no doubt that they will try again in the future, with a much better package in mind. But for now, they have gone in a better direction, and that is quite interesting to me.

  16. Zazeems said on 14th April 2010, 0:18

    @HounslowBusGarage

    Just had a look at that location you suggested outside the velodrome. It would be without doubt the coolest location for a race ever – a kind of parkland circuit in Beijing!

    In all seriousness though, you really could be onto something there, there’s plenty of room to build the paddock and pit lane, and the infastructure is already in place. They wouldnt even have to build run-off; just add monaco style armco at the edge of the circuit!

    If they put on a race there, I wouldn’t even mind if it was a procession with nobody there… :)

    Great Spot!

  17. f1aroo said on 14th April 2010, 2:28

    Now that it’s all arranged for Flavio to take over for Bernie in 2013, he’ll be doing advanced planning on how to increase the show at all the circuits. He’s been spouting off about making the show better for two years. Now he’ll get his chance. He’ll concentrate on important markets like China

  18. PeriSoft said on 14th April 2010, 4:08

    Mercedes drew attention to the fact that they sell more S Class executive saloons in China than any other country…

    …and that’s not even counting the number of Mercedes S Class executive saloons that all the Chinese manufacturers sell!

  19. Freeman said on 14th April 2010, 4:46

    I’m a Chinese from Hong Kong, and like many others, I’m disappointed in the Chinese GP. But my disappointment is a tad different to some of you. Let’s go through each point here.

    1) Circuit: I agree turn 1 is gimmicky, and the circuit is too flat. But I think SIC produces some relatively good races, even in dry conditions. Like this circuit or not, there are overtaking spots, namely the hairpin after the long straight.

    2) Lack of spectators: This is a big problem. And more importantly, even if it’s full house, the atmosphere’s not great. (I’ve been to this race twice, and I’ve been to a few races elsewhere, the atmosphere in SH sucks) This has to do with China & F1 not doing enough to promote and educate the public what F1 is about.

    3) Government money: This race was founded based on Chinese officials throwing tons of money (which there’s plenty in China) to promote Shanghai & China’s image. This is all well and great. But these officials have no clue how to promote and generate interest to the public. They expected by throwing gazillions to Bernie, everything will be fine and dandy.

    Having said all that, let’s discuss some commonly asked questions.

    1) Does F1 need China? Like it or not, the answer is yes. Even for smaller, non-manufacturer teams. Let’s ask Sir Richard does he want to promote his Virgin brand in China via F1? I’m sure he’d say yes in a flash. And this goes the same for small sponsors in the small teams. Does Bernie & F1 need China’s bloated hosting fee each year? Yes, it’s not in his DNA to say no to money, and the teams need this money in the prize pool.

    2) Does China need F1? At the moment, they can live without it. But I think they just don’t know and not done enough to realize the true potential of using F1 to promote their brands, products and image.

    So, here’s what realistically China & F1 needs to do to improve the product.

    1) F1 to actively promote itself in China: I can think of demonstration runs in Chinese cities other than Shanghai. Driver appearances in media events, TV shows, etc. Or even F1 producing their own TV show or documentary highlighting their history and excitement (this all done in Chinese of course)

    2) Change the promoter of the Shanghai race: Simply because some of the original promoters are jailed for corruption! (correct me if I’m wrong).

    3) GP promoter & China’s motorsport association (if there is such a thing) to start promoting junior formulas and youth programs. Look, if India & Malaysia can nurture young drivers, China can too. There are more than enough rich dads and kid dreamers in China.

    4) Chinese brands or auto manufacturers to invest in or sponsor a in a big team, or do something like what Malaysia has done with Lotus. Admittedly, this will take time.

    5) Oh… lastly, here’s what can be done immediately for better marketing… open up TWITTER in China! (Much easier said than done…)

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 14th April 2010, 8:02

      Interesting analysis.
      How much difference would having a Chinese driver in a non-chinese team make?

      • Freeman said on 14th April 2010, 11:03

        Well… Karun Chandhok is in a non-Indian team, and look how it stirred up big interest in India

    • Jessie1276 said on 14th April 2010, 15:13

      I’ve been there once;Agree w/ the “atmosphere in SH sucks” part,although I’ve never been 2 other circuits.Even watch F1 live on TV with several fans would have a better experience than that. But that’s not because China’s lacking of F1 fanatics.They r just too young 2 affrod the ticket. Of couse,promotion r needed,but it takes time 4 the young F1 fans 2 have the purchasing power.

      • Freeman said on 15th April 2010, 2:34

        Good point about ticket prices. I’m sure many will agree the sky high ticket prices globally is crowding out many fans. Especially true in developing countries. But more to the point, there are tons of people in Shanghai who can afford tickets, but ask yourself why are they not coming? Why are they not buying regular price tickets?

    • gpfan said on 14th April 2010, 22:29

      Well done, Freeman. I wish I had said that, but I was probably too busy with my thumb in, to come up with anything so clever in my last post.

      You espoused, where I ranted. Kudos.

      • Freeman said on 15th April 2010, 2:47

        Thanks for the compliments. Was just trying to rationalize the issues while trying hard not to blame everything on Bernie!

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