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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

    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.

  6. 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.

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


    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!

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. I can’t say I’d be particularly disappointed if Shanghai falls off the calender. It’s symbolic of everything that was wrong with early-2000s F1 philosophy: much too big, much too much money, too similar in look-and-feel to other circuits, not enough consideration towards those who are supposed to use the facilities and generally missing the point of its own existence.

    If China wants to be in F1, it needs to be in there with a smaller-scale circuit with a good junior series roster. Its approach needs to be aimed more towards fans, media and drivers and less towards VIPs and FOM. If the FOM wants F1 to be in China, it needs to be receptive to and encourage these things instead of clinging to the “greed is good” philosophy that’s caused it so many problems over the years.

    Neither party needs the other, but both clearly want it. Just not on the current terms.

    • Oh, and visa terms that make sense would probably help China’s PR and attendance figures too!

    • Jessie1276 said on 14th April 2010, 14:59

      Really good point!

    • Freeman said on 15th April 2010, 3:05

      Good point. Agreed China should do a lot more to make F1 fraternity & fans feel warm and welcomed when they visit. Like Joe Saward said, he couldn’t feel the same warm reception he feels in China compared to other new venues like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Singapore.

  12. Robert McKay said on 14th April 2010, 12:53

    If we’re dropping races on the back of poor crowd attendances…say bye-bye to Turkey as well.

    • wasiF1 said on 14th April 2010, 13:27

      Totally agree, Turkey is an awesome track but I think it has been built in the wrong place.

      • macahan said on 14th April 2010, 16:54

        Imagine a wet Turkey race. Wow that be awesome. It’s a nice track with decent overtaking in the dry but nothing spectacular. How fun would it not to see that track at a different location where we might see colder track condition and rain? ;)

  13. wasiF1 said on 14th April 2010, 13:31

    I want to bring one more point
    We are talking about poor attendance,now is the high price of race ticket an issue? Many people who are studying probably don’t have the pocket money to go in a GP even that is happening in his/her own country.

    So unlike they do with Cricket should the ticket price need to come down in other words someone have to convinced Bernie to get less money from the track or Grand prix organizer.

    • John H said on 14th April 2010, 13:42

      “someone have to convinced Bernie to get less money”

      talk about your all time impossible tasks!!

  14. John H said on 14th April 2010, 13:41

    Why can’t tracks at a given location be designed by a fixed cost competition, with the winner judged by fans, drivers and the FIA?

    That way we can let Bernie have the race where he wants and we can make Tilke think a bit harder before just copy and pasting.

    • wasiF1 said on 14th April 2010, 14:30

      I do sometimes have some optimistic thinking which are out of this world.
      But have to say that I liked your idea, do Tilke have a contract with FOM or FIA that he will designed racing tracks for F1 for certain period of time?

      As far I remember that the track in Singapore was designed by the same people who designed the track in Australia in Melbourne.

      • macahan said on 14th April 2010, 17:03

        Tilke made a design for Singapore this design was modified by KBR. As for Australia this is a very old track and dating back to the 50’s and undergone modifications over the years whom done those I am not sure but I would be surprised if they where the same people that did Singapore.

  15. Mark Shen said on 14th April 2010, 13:47

    Shanghai can hold around 200,000 spectators , everyone can have a seat. There are 3 no seat areas . You can see that the main grandstand is huge.
    Silverstone has a capacity of 90,000. If half of the seats in Shanghai are empty, it still has 100,000 spectators.
    Still poor attendance?
    I highly recommand you to attend Shanghai GP, to see the fact by your own eyes. Watching F1 in Tv is always boring.

    • Robert McKay said on 14th April 2010, 16:51

      It’s not about how many it holds, or how many spare seats there are. It’s about how many actually pay to get in. Or indeed are brought in by bus to make the place look fuller.

      But I would like to see some stats on crowd sizes, that’s for sure…

      • Mark Shen said on 14th April 2010, 17:01

        Brought in by bus? Yes, they did that for school children on Friday or Saturday. It’s free.School activity.
        Or do you mean shuttle bus?

    • macahan said on 14th April 2010, 17:21

      ANyone knows a good site showing the race by race attendance figures? I found some but they are very incomplete or just have figure for a single race and many mention figures from many years past. 07 Shanghai had 140k, compare this to MotoGP that didn’t put Shanghai on the calendar for the provisional 09 schedule due to…. over crowding..
      MotoGP and V8 SuperCars have in the past attracted crowds of over 250,000 spectators.
      Best I seen for F1 is 140k in 06. Recent years don’t seem to been better and a lot of free ticks and military/students been brought in to fill up seats allegedly.
      Why can MotoGP and V8 Supercars draw such a crowd in China when F1 can’t? Ticket Price? Promotion?

      • Mark Shen said on 14th April 2010, 17:34

        Ok,another funny guy. This time , you say military. HAHA. I will not be surprised that some guys say: You see, Chinese brought dogs/cats to fill the grandstand.

      • Mark Shen said on 14th April 2010, 17:51

        F1 in Shanghai has the same crowd. But even though 140k people attended in the circuit, there are still 60k empty seats. So many TV audiences say that’ s poor attendance. This is the reason. People should see things a bit deeper and not be misled by surface.

        • Mark, I’ll try to find out for myself this weekend. But based on what I’ve heard from Chinese friends… let’s just say that crowds won’t be an issue.

          And one more thing – when someone has to go to such lengths as to convert one entire set of grandstands into a giant billboard, that’s never a good sign, is it?

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