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
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 Hülkenberg 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?
Going to a race later this year?
Find other fans who are going to the same race as you:
- 2010 Spanish Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Monaco Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Turkish Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Canadian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 European Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 British Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 German Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Belgian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Italian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Singapore Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Japanese Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Korean Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix discussion
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
- Sunday in Shanghai – a fans’ view of the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix
- 2010 Chinese Grand Prix – the complete F1 Fanatic review
- Ferrari deny Alonso-Massa rift
- Points for Petrov and first McLaren 1-2 since 2007 (Chinese GP stats and facts)
- Safety car spares Hamilton and Alonso’s blushes (Chinese Grand Prix analysis)
- Chinese Grand Prix fastest laps
- Chinese Grand Prix in pictures
- Webber loses out in safety car incident
- Button leads McLaren to one-two in wet race
- Hamilton’s pit lane dice with Vettel could cost him second (Update: no penalty)
Image (C) Force India F1 Team, Lotus Racing