Sunday in Shanghai – a fans’ view of the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix

Jeremy saw lots of action from his vantage point at the hairpin

Jeremy saw lots of action from his vantage point at the hairpin

Jeremy Sedley made the trip from Australia to Shanghai and watched a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix.

Read his experience of visiting the Chinese round of the world championship and his thoughts on how successful F1 has been in attracting fans to the race.

Where’s the track?

After almost two hours of flight delays I land at Shanghai at 7.45pm. The walk from the the gate to customs is almost a kilometre and there’s no sign of anything promoting the F1 race – unlike when I went to Melbourne.

There’s free Wi-Fi at the airport but access to Twitter and Facebook is blocked by the government. Fortunately I’ve got a VPN for my computer to get around it later.

I’ve no idea what lies ahead as I arrive. I am one of the very few non-Chinese around on the Metro. It’s packed and very clean and you can walk from one end of the train to another as it is one long train with no doors. Conveniently the announcements about the next stop are made in Chinese and English. Very efficient.

I get to sleep at midnight having booked a taxi to the track. This was not easy as no one at concierge had any idea about F1 is how to find the Shanghai International Circuit. Eventually the assistant manager came to the rescue and I get quoted 100-200 Yuan for the taxi ride.

On Saturday I get up at 6am for gym and breakfast and a quick chat with my family back home. It’s freezing – no more than 6C.

In the taxi on my way to the track I see signs for all the major car manufacturers. There’s no doubt they are the reason why the Grand Prix is here. And there’s no shortage of luxury cars either – Mercedes S500s and long wheelbase Audi A8 W12s.

The driving here is somewhat normal compared to Shenszen which was like the wild west 100 years ago. Having said that, there are some people driving on the hard should and my driver is the fastest on the road – we’re weaving like Lewis Hamilton.

As our taxi nudges 140kpg I notice the train line runs parallel with the road and consider using that for my return journey. Ahead of us the sky is tinged brown with pollution. The roads vary between rough, potholed tracks and vast motorways, gleaming and still wet from being cleaned.

Finally I glimpse the first ‘F1′ sign. There’s hardly any queue for tickets and I get two days access for 1,980 Yuan – about ??170.

Mercedes and merchandise

I head over to the massive main grandstand and in front of it is a huge Mercedes display area with eight cars including several AMG high performance models. It’s clear how important the Chinese market is to them

There are the usual F1 merchandise tents – only McLaren and Ferrari have dedicated booths.

But while merchandise is abundant the variety and quality of food and drink is shockingly bad. I resolve to bring my own tomorrow.

I head over to my stand which overlooks turn 14, the right-hander hairpin, then the small straight into a left-hander leading to the start/finish straight and pit lane entrance. During practice the drivers often lift at the exit of the hairpin to give themselves space for a clear lap.

After practice there are no more than 20 spectators in the stand opposite – plus 50 police. I buy an FM radio headset for 199 Yuan which I’m told has English commentary but the sound quality is awful. It’s a far cry from my visit to Melbourne where I had corporate passes including access to the Phillip Morris suite at turns one and two.

Terrible food, worse music

Before qualifying most people congregate in the F1 ‘village’ – more merchandise stands and more awful food. Vitamin Water has a huge stand with dancers and very loud music.

It’s pretty boring between sessions. Trance music blares from the public tannoys, the spectators shiver and every ten minutes we hear the same recorded message: “Welcome to Shanghai International racing circuit, covering 5.9km in north east Shanghai…”

The video screens aren’t very big and are a long way back from the stands. I have to use my camera zoom to see the race data. At Melbourne I had a Kangaroo TV, which was brilliant, but they aren’t available here. With 20 minutes to go until qualifying the wind picks up and I add a fourth layer of clothing.

As the session begins the stands get busier. I’m rooting for Hamilton but after a strong showing in the first two parts of qualifying he slumps to sixth in Q3.

I buy a McLaren jumper to take the edge off the wind chill and look for a way back to the city. I give up on finding another taxi and instead plump for the metro – it takes 30 minutes to get a train and then another 40 to get back.

Annoyingly, I’m told the railway station is closed on race day for “safety reasons”. I get talking to another Australian and we arrange to share a car to the track and pick us up afterwards. This costs us 1100 Yuan (??100).

A thrilling race

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Shanghai, 2010

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Shanghai, 2010

I get to the track at two o’clock on race day. By then the wind has dropped and it’s much warmer.

It’s also busier, although the crowd is still not what you’d call large. Most of the Chinese fans appear to be sporting McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes gear.

It started to spit with rain during the installation lap – fortunately my stand is covered, though of course it can’t keep us completely dry.

As the race begins we squint at the screens to try to make out what’s happened. A Force India and two other cars have obviously crashed, and to our surprise a Ferrari – Fernando Alonso – comes by first.

The seat is great as I can see the cars taking the corner to the back straight all the way down to the hairpin, and thanks to the rain there’s a lot of passing going on. Without a doubt this is the best seat I have ever had at a Grand Prix.

Plenty of cars slipped off at the hairpin – Nico H???lkenberg came off the most and as the rain got heavier Jenson Button went off too. I saw Hamilton and Michael Schumacher fighting and later Hamilton and Nico Rosberg going at it as well.

We also see the tussles into the pit lane between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and later the two Ferraris.

At the second safety car period the field bunches up enormously at the hairpin – Button seemed to slow down too much and cause a jam.

Stand K must be a kilometre long – you can walk up and down it all the way from the pit entrance to the hairpin which I did twice during the race and sat down in about 20 different seats as their were so many spare.

The end of the race is perfect for a McLaren fan like myself with Button leading and Hamilton catching – though I’d rather have seen Hamilton in the lead.

By the time the race is over I’m quite looking forward to getting out the stand. The number of people smoking has driven me a bit mad – there’s so much smoking in China.

As I had out of the track the rain is getting harder. There are traders everywhere trying to sell watches and the Mercedes stand is still packed.

Despite a few significant irritations I thought the tickets were great value for money and I would definitely return. My next F1 visit is in September, when I’ll be heading out to Singapore.

Tell us about your F1 experiences

Have you come back from one of this year’s race with a tale to tell. Just made you first visit to an F1 race? Perhaps were you at a classic past Grand Prix you’d like to tell us about?

Whatever race you’ve been to if you’d like to share your story with us please get in touch by emailling me, using Twitter or leaving a comment below.

Going to a race later this year?

Find other fans who are going to the same race as you:

This is a guest article by Jeremy Sedley. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

2010 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image (C) Force India F1 Team, Lotus Racing

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28 comments on Sunday in Shanghai – a fans’ view of the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix

  1. Robert McKay said on 21st April 2010, 13:13

    Fascinating insight, thanks for this Jeremy.

    Having the railway shut on raceday seems particularly bizarre…

    • Hairs said on 22nd April 2010, 0:42

      Closing the railway on race day?

      Sounds like classic F1 track planning to me. Maybe they did it to spice up the show and give the spectators a visit to remember? Or perhaps one manufacturer had just landed a big supply contract for taxis and Bernie was giving them a helpful hand up?

  2. Sounds as if the race made the whole weekend slightly more bearable. I went to the first Chinese GP and there was a lot of promotion around the city. Sad that it’s all tailed off, but understandable.

    BTW, if you ever need the services of a proofreader, I am more than happy to volunteer. Some of that article made tough reading. ;-)

  3. Ned Flanders said on 21st April 2010, 13:29

    Fantastic article, makes a nice change reading something in present tense too. Not sure China comes out of it very well though; it sounds like, a cold, rainy, smoggy place where everyone smokes cigarettes and drives dangerously!

    Would be interesting to hear the spectators experiences from some of the more obscure races on the calender. We all know roughly what going to get when you visit Spa, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Melbourne etc- I’m particularly interested in Suzuka, it seems like a great experience for fans

    • KlBD said on 21st April 2010, 16:44

      Well, you wouldn’t be totally wrong there, wild west driving and smoking are quite ubiquitous, as well as the smog, but the really unpredictable spring rain happens to be a feature of Shanghai’s…haha :D

  4. Oooh, someone who went to Shanghai too! Will see if I can make a writeup and get it on the Net soon-ish. Just that there’s so much to catch up on! In the meantime, here are my thoughts:

    But while merchandise is abundant the variety and quality of food and drink is shockingly bad. I resolve to bring my own tomorrow.

    I personally thought the food was rather decent. It’s nothing like Singapore’s 2008 offerings, but definitely better than Sepang’s choices when we went there last year.

    And yes, there was LOTS of merch, both inside and outside the actual paddock. The best Merc merch was inside, but the best Ferrari merch was actually outside, in one of the SIC booths.

    I buy an FM radio headset for 199 Yuan which I’m told has English commentary but the sound quality is awful.

    It was decent enough by Sunday, after it started out as inaudible on Friday…

    I found out on Sunday that if your mobile has a radio tuner, you can just use that to tune into the circuit PA and save yourself a ton of cash. That said, it’s the first GP I’ve watched live without a Kangaroo, and I sorely missed it in the middle of the shower shuffle.

    It started to spit with rain during the installation lap – fortunately my stand is covered, though of course it can’t keep us completely dry.

    We ourselves were seated at the topmost row. It was… chilly, to say the least. ;)

    The seat is great as I can see the cars taking the corner to the back straight all the way down to the hairpin, and thanks to the rain there’s a lot of passing going on. Without a doubt this is the best seat I have ever had at a Grand Prix.

    Agreed. It’s a better bargain than a front straight seat.

    Despite a few significant irritations I thought the tickets were great value for money and I would definitely return. My next F1 visit is in September, when I’ll be heading out to Singapore.

    I loved, loved, loved my visit to Singapore. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yours too. ;)

  5. Steezy said on 21st April 2010, 14:36

    Nice read, I remember watching one of the practice sessions (BBC red button) and I’m sure they were playing some awful pop music, either in one of the garages or it was outside. Why do sporting venues insist on doing this? I’ve been to Old Trafford a few times, and Craven Cottage, they also seem to do this. Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears.. I mean, I’m sitting there thinking *** is this ****.

    I understand that they try to create family friendly atmospheres so you’ll never hear anything decent, but seriously.

    • Scribe said on 21st April 2010, 16:32

      Weirldly the best music I’ve heared at a sporting event was during the twenty20 world cup at lords.

      6′s, 4′s, new batmen, 3rd umpire discions, overs, wickets, an other events all got their own music, most electric cricket match i’ve ever been too. An we beat India. Converted my hardcore dad to the game as well.

  6. SkinBintin said on 21st April 2010, 14:59

    Girlfriend and I have been considering visiting a Grand Prix most likely in 2012 or 2013… we aren’t sure which yet, but it’s likely to be Australia or Britain.

    She really wants Paddock Club, which is the main reason why the trip may take place in 2013… is Paddock Club worth it? Reading this, having seats like that on a great part of the track seems excellent. I’m wondering if I’ll miss out on most of the vibe of being there by being in Paddock Club surrounded by rich folk that care more for the image of being there, and the racing taking place.

    Anyone here actually attended a Grand Prix with Paddock Club passes that could help me out?

    Cheers. :)

    • Mark Shen said on 21st April 2010, 15:16

      Don’t do that. My girl friend and I have been once in Paddock Club in Shanghai and it was f*** expensive. Atmosphere there was not great.People are wearing brand new suit and act, as if they were attending a meeting. Many of them are not F1 fans but customers of some sponsors. You can not shout or do something extrem, otherwise you will draw everyone’s attention. You sit there and watch TV, just like you are sitting at home. It’s quiet boring. I don’t know how it is in other GPs, maybe a Monaco one is better.

      • Patrickl said on 21st April 2010, 22:43

        Doesn’t the paddock club allow you access to the pitlane for a while every day? That was the reason I would have been interested in it.

  7. A-Safieldin said on 21st April 2010, 17:18

    Off topic but for anyone who knows the technical rules I was thinking about redbull’s hight thingy.. Could you lay the fuel tank on a platform of hydraulic fluid (with a piston and what have) that is forced down by the weight of the fuel. The hydraulic fluid then goes to the some thing in the suspension (all mechanical) and props the car up.. as the fuel burns away the load on the platform decreases thus the pressure of the fluid goes down and the car lowers itself accordingly. Sorry if its brief but Math today was mad boring so I came up with it then. Anyone? do please comment… And for those of you who’ve got unofficial mechanic degrees do join in..

  8. sato113 said on 22nd April 2010, 0:40

    so if you were at turn 14 for practice you must have seen buemi’s accident? and the stray wheel?

    • That was on Friday, so Jeremy missed it. I only saw it on the big screen too, as I was sitting on the main straight on Friday.

      Would’ve wanted to see it live, though.

  9. wasiF1 said on 22nd April 2010, 2:09

    Nice article Jeremy Sedley, you did struggle a lot but at the end of the day it was worthed as it was a thrilling race.Can I ask, how much did it cost you altogether?

    I am planning to go in 2011 or 2012!

    • ILoveVettel said on 22nd April 2010, 4:24

      wasiF, come to the Indian GP in 2011….
      Both of us might join that one….

      And me being from WB, we may have some heated discussion in bengali :D

      • wasiF1 said on 22nd April 2010, 7:55

        @ ILoveVettel

        Thanks for the warm welcome, surely I will be happy if I can come there, it’s the closest to my home.Are you from Kolkata?
        Would you mind giving me your twitter ID (if you have any) or mail ID.

    • jeloz said on 22nd April 2010, 4:36

      I have to say, i wrote this all on my iPhone and had I had the time i may have reviewed what i wrote more and edited more but it was a true honest account.

      I enjoyed it so much and there were some negatives but i probably did not talk enough about how much I love the NOISE and the thrill of being there was amazing. This is about my 10th GP.

      It is just insane and if you have never been , make it a priority…

      I was lucky enough in China and in HK for business so those costs were covered , Hotel was about $AU$250 per night based on a 3 for 2 deal, the ticket was from the ticket office outside 1980RMB (AU$315) – and i spent about AU$300 on other bits + AU$160 on my McLaren top!!! (dedication to the cause) + Flight to and from Hong Kong was AU$250 – not a cheap trip of course…

      The toughest thing at this race was understanding position due to all the elements , rain, safety, pit stops etc and no doubt that was also hard on TV.

      Last highlight not mentioned, travelling from Shanghai city to the airport on the Maglev at 401 KM per hour! that was very quick…

      • Mike said on 22nd April 2010, 6:48

        Never been to a GP, just don’t have the funds, the closest I’ve been was on free Thursday at Melbourne,

        You know you need to get a life when one F1 car going past once on a slow demonstration lap evokes such emotion…

        • wasiF1 said on 22nd April 2010, 8:01

          @ Mike

          I pray for you & all the other people out there like me who have a dream to go in a GP so that their wish comes true.

          I have been haunting my dream for three & half years & still came nowhere near to it.I did plan to go this year Malaysia GP, but the funding wasn’t enough & my parents don’t want me to make that long journey alone.

  10. I don’t mean to be too negative, however isn’t a bit hypocritical to say there is too much smoking in China, considering you accepted the hospitality of Phillip Morris at the Australian Grand Prix.

    Other nice article, good to read about someones actual impressions of the grand prix.

    • jeloz said on 22nd April 2010, 4:42

      On that Phillip Morris comment – valid point but no smoking at the AU GP!! and i got that invite 3 minutes before the start and it was an amazing view and i felt very conspicuous in my McLaren bright orange victory shirt :)- i am sure anyone here would have accepted that offer…Glad u all liked the article – thank you – Jeremy

  11. stevensan said on 22nd April 2010, 4:56

    Stand K is a fantastic place to watch f1 from. Agree with most of what was written – I have been at the Shanghai gp 4 times.

    One great way to go is to join the ‘f1 booze bus’ which is run by a group of Australian residents – they take care of the transport and ‘refreshments’ for the day. Almost everyone on the bus buys their tickets from scalpers (you’ll pay at most 500rmb for the 1980rmb ticket…) or pays of the gate guys to just let them in…

    check out http://www.shanghaiexpat.com just before the race next year for contact details for the guys and loads more info about Shanghai.

  12. US Williams Fan said on 23rd April 2010, 4:19

    Thanks for the article! Shows both the excitement and difficulties of traveling to a race……

  13. gpfan said on 23rd April 2010, 23:50

    Cold? Try going to the Grand Prix of Canada back in the good olde days.

    Both Montreal and Bowmanville (Mosport) are down-right unpalatable in October and September.

    You Aussies don’t know chilly! lol

    As for the Paddock Club?

    I remember wandering around the pits, and pee-ing in the same porta-loos as the mechanics, at the USGP East in Detroit. Literally bumped into Niki Lauda at entrance/exit to the race/Renaissance Centre.

    All for the price of a General Admission ticket.

    Americans are many things, but they sure do know how to sell and entertain!

    Mind, that was 1982.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_Detroit_Grand_Prix

    • gpfan said on 23rd April 2010, 23:52

      Forgot to add .. as we walked in, young lovelies were handing out condoms, Marlboro’s and the latest Penthouse. Rizla (?) papers were there for the asking …..

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