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. 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.

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

    2. Really good point!

    3. 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.

  2. Robert McKay
    14th April 2010, 12:53

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

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

      1. 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? ;)

  3. 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.

    1. “someone have to convinced Bernie to get less money”

      talk about your all time impossible tasks!!

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. Robert McKay
      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…

      1. 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?

    2. 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?

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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?

  6. As a Chinese…and live in Shanghai…have been to Chinese Grand Prix twice and planning for the third time…
    I have to say I don’t like this track but it’s not so bad as Spain’s two circuits so it should stay in Formula one.
    Snooker is popular in china just because we have Junhui Ding and some talented young guys…
    And most importantly…you guys have to know that a sport’s future in China is mainly hold on CCTV – China Central Television.
    And the Formula one commentators of CCTV are absolutely the stupidest human beings in the world…They damaged Formula one’s image in china quite badly…
    They know nothing about Formula one and…I cannot describe their idiocy with my limited english writing skill…If any of you is learning chinese…do not watch CCTV’s Formula one coverage…
    China needs a chinese driver but that is not going to happen because formula drivers in china currently if my memory is correct…no more than 20…
    Yes China has already overtaken United states to become the largest car market in the world but…motor-racing…we still have a long long way to go.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      14th April 2010, 20:12

      “absolutely the stupidest human beings in the world”. Very nice description!

    2. Sean? Move to Toronto, Canada. You can speak Chinese amongst me and my pals, all you want. I’ll be the white guy that does not understand you and my pals! lol

      You should be around when we play snooker. They have taught me to swear in Cantonese, and I, have taught them German swearing.

      Imagine a Macau or HK lad missing a shot and then swearing in German!


      Can not print the various Chinese words I say, when I miss. ;)

      1. I will come to Rochester in September for college~It’s pretty close to Toronto~

  7. Many tickets were bought by corporations or sponsors. They organized their empolyees to watch races. So, you saw the buses, maybe they belong to these companies. I’ve cheched the statistics, 70% tickets were bought by private spectators and 30% by corporations.

  8. I can imagine, many people here think even though there are some spectators, they are brought by goverment. Ok, that ‘s ideal. I hope once i can be brought in, haha, free tickets and free transportation. Too fantastic. Even though I am treated like animals, I will still do so.
    Some guys here are really very funny. They’ve never been to Shanghai GP and still act like some experts or insiders.

  9. Want to share an off-topic experience…

    As much as I didn’t like the atmosphere and experience while I twice visited the Shanghai GP, I experienced a euphoric moment while seated in the main grandstand in Qualy at the inaugural Chinese GP in 2004.

    Remember this was the height of the Schumi snore-fest, and I’m not a fan of this guy’s antics to say the least. It was the 1 lap qualifying format if I remember correctly.

    As I watch the red car with the red helmet got a tad out of shape and aggressive coming out of the last corner to start his flying lap, he zooms past the grandstand for his lap. The packed grandstand cheers him on (this is China’s first GP, naturally and to my disgust, Schumi’s the guy who’s most famous to these new fans). Then in Turn 1, he went in hot, slowly got out of shape, then oh my god…. he got sideways, oh wait he spun! On to the gravel he goes! And this happened right in front of my eyes! Couldn’t believe it!

    The whole grandstand was quiet, all eyes wide open, I could hear some groans and “eh…?” Then I popped up right onto my feet, fists punching the sky, jumping up and down, out comes the roars “YEAH!!! YEAH!!! YES!!! Woohoo!” I must’ve been bouncing like a maniac for like a minute. I swear I was the loudest guy in the now quiet grandstand. Those around me couldn’t figure out what is wrong with this lunatic. Their puzzled stares said it all. I swear I couldn’t help it, not when my anti-hero’s car was always bullet-proof, and he never qualified so down in the grid since god knows when. And I got to see all this with my very own eyes.

    That’s all… To the eyes of the tifosi, I am an idiot. Easy on the hate mail ok?

  10. Keith, please create a page on what you think should be the F1 calender for 2011 and ask fans to put in their ideal F1 2011 calender

  11. Pilgrim Father
    8th November 2010, 5:22

    There are better places to hold F1 than China

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