Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 in China - How long can it go on? // A lack of fans and less than stellar racing can't continue forever

Published by Christine

The main overriding memory I have of Free Practice this morning is the disappointment I felt that the Expo advertising on the grandstands towards the end of the track had been replaced. Rather than promoting an upcoming event, they now promote the area the circuit is in instead.

Retro Expo
Retro ExpoCredit: Toyota Motorsport GmbH

However, as F1 Wolf quite rightly pointed out in the comments, no matter which display is there, the one thing they are also advertising is the lack of fans. It's not a new concept to discover that the Chinese Grand Prix has poor attendance, and of all the days, you can imagine that Friday would have the lowest. I'm not sure I saw more than ten people at the side of the track, though, and that is nothing short of disgraceful.

When the GP arrived on the F1 calendar in 2004, we were prepared to grant them a couple of years to build up the motorsport fanbase in the country. Although it's advisable to turn up to countries that are already keen on the sport itself, if you're not going to do that, you can't instantly expect huge crowds.

We're now looking at the eighth race to be held at the Shanghai International Circuit and the numbers don't seem to be improving. Organisers at the circuit have been in two minds about continuing their contract with Formula One, as the event is still a loss-making endeavour. It wasn't until February that a deal was finally agreed, and although it guarantees a Chinese Grand Prix until 2017, can we really hold on that long?

We know from many blog posts, podcasts, and news items, that the GP isn't an easy event to cover - getting into the country is hard enough, and then trying to get your updates back out again can be even harder.

Just been talking to a few of the journos and hearing the "no access to Twitter and blogs" stories. Glad we don't have that issue! #F1

MarussiaVirgin MarussiaVirgin

The media find it tough to be positive from the start, and no matter what the racing provides, a lack of enthusiastic fans will give the entire weekend a muted atmosphere. If it can get any more muted than the smoggy sessions we saw this morning, that is.

So far this week, we've already followed a more-than-disgruntled Mike Gascoyne as he took the taxi journey from hell - at least four hours to get from the airport to the hotel - and he's not the only one to be wary of public transport now.

Taxi jorney from airport in china, driver totally lost and after one hour we directed him back to airport, 2 hours in now, no chance

MikeGascoyne MikeGascoyne

Can Formula One keep racing there indefinitely, regardless of the appearance given out, and the effect it has on fans? Money is one thing, the circuit has reportedly been one of the highest payers to bring F1 to its asphalt, but the damaging effect is something quite different. When there are rules and regulations about bringing the sport into disrepute, surely this should be looked at very seriously. As passionate as the few Chinese fans may be, insisting on bringing the sport year after year to a country that appears mainly indifferent, when there are other countries desperate to show they can do it better, seems the epitome of breaking that rule.