Shanghai to drop Grand Prix?


One only had to look at the swathes of empty seats in the grandstands in Shanghai - those grandstands not turned into giant advertising hoardings for EXPO 2010 - to realise that the Chinese Grand Prix is not pulling in the punters. Indeed, on the Pitpass forum, shortly after the event, TokyoAussie wrote:

"I had a seat in one of the stands at the first corner (B stands). Over half the first corner stands were completely empty on Friday and Saturday. They were filled on the Sunday by busloads of school kids (some of them primary school kids) and other incidentals. One thing a communist society can do is make a phone call to fill a stadium at short notice. Other stands were closed, and instead just advertised the upcoming Expo 2010.

Tickets could be easily obtained outside the ticket gates for between 45 to 55 Euros (there is a raging tout society in China), assuming that one were to actually buy a ticket. Some entry points were even letting people in for free, or just losing control of their gate. I don't blame the punters of Shanghai; an F1 ticket is way beyond most people's budgets in China. For the record, I bought my ticket before heading to China.

The level of support that exists in China for the F1 race is exceedingly insignificant when measured against France or Canada. The only real support is from the Chinese government. In effect, I felt like a bit player in an expensive TV commercial, and I was one of the few who had to pay to be in it. Sport does not enter the equation. The TV pictures on Sunday may have given the impression a decent crowd was on hand. Nothing is further from the truth. It was embarrassing."

Therefore, it comes as no real surprise to hear that organizers are considering dropping the event once the current contract runs out in 2010.

According to AFP, Qiu Weichang, the deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, the situation is currently being assessed, with a decision expected early next year.

"We're doing the assessment," he told AFP. "By next year we should be able to give you an answer.

"We want to create a win-win situation, for our side and for Bernie (Ecclestonef) and the F1 organisers as well," he continued. "If this is something we can do, and our cooperation is very happy and smooth, we will consider it. "Of course we would like at least to break even. But there are two factors, one is the assessment the other part is the win-win situation that we can create."

The pictures, not to mention TokyoAussie's assessment, tell the story, a story which has seen the Shanghai organizers spend $240m on a state-of-the-art facility yet have to give tickets away and rely on school children to make up the (fan) numbers.

Ecclestone is keen to move the Shanghai event to a night-time slot, as in Singapore, not to hide the lack of fans but in order to attract more European TV viewers. It is a move which the Shanghai organizers are not keen on.

"In Singapore., holding the event at night is a good way to attract tourists to a small country," said Weichang. "I think Singapore is hosting this event in their own unique way but we have our own situation."

Looking ahead, the writing appears to already be on the wall for Shanghai. "Even if we don't run F1 after 2010 we should be able to cover our bases because events are taking place in the rest of the year over about 200 days," Weichang continued. "We want to turn it into Disneyland for cars. Fans can go there if they want to really enjoy F1-style driving and enjoy the thrill of driving at speed at this venue. Thanks to F1 we have already created this huge wave of car fever, so in that sense it is good news."

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 14/11/2008
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