A bullish weekend

But Shanghai is less sure about its Grand Prix future

A bullish weekend

Formula None? The Shanghai Grand Prix is losing money

Sebastian Vettel triumphed in rain-drenched conditions at the Shanghai Grand Prix last weekend, bringing Red Bull Racing its first team victory.

Almost everything went to plan for the Austrian-based outfit, even if team bosses were a bit miffed when the band struck up the British national anthem by mistake during podium celebrations.

For Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Shanghai’s continued participation on the Grand Prix circuit is proving more of a headache, as he waits to see if officials will extend the current contract for another five years.

Not that you would guess that this is in doubt, from Ecclestone’s flurry of press interviews at this year’s event. As far as he was concerned: “As long as there is China, we will be here. Asia is growing while other parts of the world are dying. That is the difference.”

China first hosted Formula One six years ago, and the $350 million Shanghai circuit has earned approval from across the industry.

But it is proving more difficult to win plaudits from spectators and (crucially) corporate sponsors. This year, spectator numbers peaked at 80,000 a day, well within the circuit’s 200,000 capacity. Sure, it was cold and wet but ticket prices were significantly down on earlier years too.

Formula One is also disappointed that local sponsors have not embraced the event as they had hoped. The race even lacked a title sponsor this year, after state oil firm Sinopec decided not to renew. Ecclestone believes that Chinese companies are missing out on a chance to promote their brands.

Chinese media also thinks that the Shanghai organisers could lose upwards of $730 million on the current seven-year contract, Reuters reports.

The man who led Shanghai’s original F1 bid, Yu Zhifei, is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption. But his replacements will want to avoid the embarrassment of an unused circuit on the outskirts of the city. Industry insiders say that no decision will be taken until the end of the year.

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