This year’s F1 Chinese Grand Prix was destined to be a milestone event the moment it was confirmed as the 1,000th race in the sport’s history.
“Tickets were sold out two months ahead of this year’s race. Only the inaugural Chinese GP back in 2004 could match this kind of popularity,” Yang Yibin, general manager of local organizer Juss Event told Shanghai Daily.
Shanghai International Circuit has a capacity of about 60,000 and, according to Yang, about 10 percent of the tickets were purchased by overseas customers, the highest in the past 15 years.
“We haven’t included the foreign spectators who turned to their Chinese friends to buy tickets for them,” said Yang. “Hosting F1 race is hardly about making money. It’s the influence and side effects it has brought to the city that we value, including the contribution to the tourism industry and the build-up of Shanghai’s status as an international metropolis.”
To mark the historical 1,000th race, F1 racing cars were brought to the Shanghai streets for the first time to allow the city’s residents to admire the speedy beasts from close range.
Two F1 cars roared their engines along Hubin Road at downtown landmark Xintiandi on Saturday. Shanghai’s F2 driver Zhou Guanyu drove one of them. They were joined by a few sports cars and staged a drifting performance for spectators along the street.
The roadshow was part of the F1 Festival at Xintiandi, the official global promotional activity for F1. The festival also featured a two-day musical concert to delight the participants.
“To organize such a roadshow in city heart was a challenge, but also an exciting gift to the city as its local organizer – the cars were moved from the circuit on to the roads for a more intimate interaction with fans,” said Yang.
Yang said the event required joint efforts from various government departments like the sports bureau, public security, fire-fighting and transportation. This also showcased Shanghai’s sincerity as an F1 race host.
“After 15 years, we have cultivated a market including very professional fans for the sport,” Yang said. “I dare to say that over 80 percent spectators who showed up at Shanghai International Circuit are true followers who understand the race. Back in 2004, maybe only 20 percent could tell you what’s going on, on the track.
“Of course we have encountered set-backs regarding the event’s popularity among local fans. 2009 was a bottom because it was the first year that the Chinese GP was moved from October to April – just six months after the 2008 race. But we made a comeback in 2010 thanks to the accomplishment of Metro Line 11, a convenient transport solution for fans.
“This year, we had to cancel welfare tickets reserved for Juss Event employees and save them for the public. The market can be described as solid.”
Formula One Group chairman and chief executive Chase Carey echoed yang’s opinion.
“China is one of the most exciting growing markets we have, and one of the two markets with biggest potential while the other being the US,” said Carey. “This is the third Chinese GP I’ve been to. We are doing much more in China than we ever had in the past.”
“The sport is still at its early stage in China, but the engagement of fans here is fascinating, and we will continue to build up our connection with fans by introducing F1 eSports competition and other activities,” said Carey.