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F1 | Amid rumors of another cancellation - what future is there for the Shanghai Grand Prix?

Having hit the peak of interest in 2019 hosting the 1000th F1 Grand Prix, the future of the Shanghai F1 Grand Prix seems more uncertain than ever.

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F1 | Amid rumors of another cancellation - what future is there for the Shanghai Grand Prix?
Fuente imagen: mercedesamgf1.com

Back in November 2021, F1 announced that it was ‘delighted’ to extend its contract with the HEINEKEN FORMULA ONE CHINESE GRAND PRIX in Shanghai until 2025. The Chinese Grand Prix had been a very important part of the Formula 1 calendar since 2004 but now speculation is mounting that Shanghai will miss out on F1 in 2023 despite it being scheduled on the calendar.

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, is clearly a fan of the Chinese Grand Prix having previously said “Our partnership with the promoter Juss Sports is incredibly strong and we look forward to continuing our long-term partnership.” However, due to ongoing pandemic conditions, a Formula One race has not taken place in Shanghai since the glitz and glamour of the 1000th F1 GP back in 2019.

F1 had always said that China will be restored to the calendar as soon as conditions allow but following the widely publicised announcement of a zero-covid policy continuing in China the date of this seems far off and for this reason the 2023 cancellation is expected to be announced.

During this extended off season from F1 racing the Shanghai International Circuit did lose its Grade 1 certification – the status required to hold an F1 race – because of a lack of international events. Whether the circuit has since regained the status is not clear but definitely wouldn’t be a problem for the circuit owners to do so. The real question is whether F1 will still choose keep to its contract or end the relationship after 2025 if not sooner. F1 boss Stefano Domenicali was quoted in the media earlier this month stating that the Covid situation in China “remains an issue and it is not certain we will race there in 2023.”

A far cry from how things were when Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s Toto Wolff said as recently as last May that he would like to see as many as three Formula 1 races to be held in China. “We’ve been in Shanghai before and couldn’t be there the last two years, but this is an important market for us,” Wolff said in an interview with Xinhua. “I’d like to not only race in Shanghai, I’d also like to race in Beijing. It’s a fantastic market for us as Mercedes, and I believe we should be embedded there with a strong footprint. We have three races in the U.S. now, Las Vegas, Miami and Austin and if we can do the same thing in China, that would be great.”

However, $2000 weekend tickets in a Las Vegas Grand Prix grandstand coupled with the immense popularity of the Miami Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix shows that F1 is booming right now. As such, there are many circuits and countries vying for a position on the calendar. As Lewis Hamilton famously said in Melbourne back in 2020 when the pandemic broke – cash is king. Therefore, should an alternative venue provide funds to show their suitability, Shanghai may have a battle on its hand to remain on the calendar in 2024.

The one shining light to provide hope for future Shanghai Grand Prix racegoers could be Zhou Guanyu. The Chinese rookie of F1 in 2022 had previously said he hoped that if they couldn’t race in April, it would be postponed until later in the season.

“I think [in] April we’ll have to see.” Zhou Guanyu stated to Reuters. “There is still a good chance that it’s happening. There is a question mark if it’s happening in April or later in the year, we’ll have to see.” If the speculation in the media last week is to be believed, then that question mark has become a statement – and a cancellation is inevitable.

Having made history in 2022 as the first F1 Chinese driver, should the Shanghai-born star still be on an F1 grid in 2024, it is safe to assume that the prospect of Zhou Guanyu racing on Chinese soil would result in a sellout event. This could be enough to keep the wolf from the door in the case of any circuit seeking to replace Shanghai’s slot and encourage F1 to extend the partnership. One thing is clear, the longer it takes to resume racing the more interest there will be from elsewhere.

At the end of the day, F1 is a sport and not life and death. With certain areas of Shanghai back in lockdown this week, the priority of the country is clear. A zero-COVID policy means exactly that for the good of its citizens. The F1 obsessed fans will just be hoping that it also doesn’t mean zero F1 races when the situation eventually improves.



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