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Ecclestone confident China will stick with F1

NEWS STORY
20/04/2009

Bernie Ecclestone is confident that China will remain on the F1 calendar once its current contract ends next year.

They say that no sooner have you had one Chinese meal than you're ready for another, however, that wasn't quite the case in Shanghai last weekend, as the circuit hosted its second Grand Prix in six months. With around 80,000 attending last October's event, it's estimated that only 70,000 turned up on Sunday, many of them on a freebie.

While the manufacturers and sponsors want to be in China - far more so than the United States, Canada or France it would seem - organizers of the events are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the cost of staging an event which is estimated to have lost 500m ($730m) in the seven years it has been running.

Last year, Shanghai's deputy sports minister said that a decision on the event's future would be announced before the end of this year, however, no further details were forthcoming at the weekend. That said, Ecclestone did meet with the vice-mayor of Shanghai, a meeting that left the Englishman feeling confident.

Asked if Chinese will still be on the F1 calendar in 2011, Ecclestone told reporters: "I am sure it will be. As long as there is China, we will be here. Asia is growing while lots of parts of the world are dying. That is the difference."

Other than the apparent lack of interest from locals - many of those attending are given free tickets in order to make the event appear successful, much like last year's Olympic Games in Beijing - Ecclestone blames Chinese companies for not getting behind the event, which this year lost its title sponsor Sinopec.

"It is disappointing that it is not supported by local companies," he said. "I think they are missing an awful lot. It seems to me in China nobody cares about branding and a grand prix is a good chance to promote a brand."

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