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.
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