With a race circuit resembling the Chinese character shang, meaning ascend, the Shanghai Circuit will be a sight to behold for F1 spectators besides being a brand new challenge for drivers and their teams. AUDREY EDWARDS talks to the organisers, Shanghai International Circuit Co Ltd, about the newest inclusion to the F1 calendar.
COME October next year, China will join the F1 circus with the inaugural race in Shanghai. But it will be one with a difference.
The turns and straights will spell out a favoured Chinese character, shang, meaning ascend. And because there are two rivers around the circuit, the team bungalows will be built on the water. Drivers and team members will take water cruises to and from the circuit.
The Shanghai circuit is one of two new legs for the F1 next year, the other being Bahrain. The 5.4km track, now in the first phase of construction, will have 15 turns and five straights besides the obligatory medical centre, pit building, support paddock, workshop and karting track. It is estimated to cost two billion yuan (RM912mil).
Located in Anting Town, Jiading District, which is on the north-western outskirts of the city, the circuit is planned to be the largest in Asia with a grandstand capacity of 200,000 spectators. Malaysia's capacity at Sepang is 100,000.
“We have thousands of people working on it (the track) now. It must be completed by March next year for the inspection by FIA,” said Shanghai International Circuit deputy general manager Yu Zhifei.
Construction of roads and rail traffic in the city are also underway. Among them are highways and a fast light-rail traffic line.
A 650-km highway network will be in place while the light-rail will connect downtown Shanghai, Jiading New Area and International Automobile City in Anting to the circuit.
So enthusiastic are the Chinese about the circuit that they even have a mascot for the circuit, Raceman who strikes a “gangsta rapper” like-pose to help establish a brand name.
And they are still learning. They have visited Germany, Brazil, Spain and Monaco. Recently, they visited Malaysia where local company Asian Overland Services Tours and Travel, has been appointed as their global marketing agent.
“There are similarities in our cultures so it is easier. Plus our collaboration will hopefully gain new audiences in Asia,” added Yu.
They will also learn about race organisation, track management and track preparation from the Sepang International Circuit, organisers of the Malaysian race.
“We will have a track which is more futuristic looking. There will even be a motorsports centre where all future automobile activities like car shows can be held,' said Yu, adding that winning the F1 bid last year was a feather in China's cap as they have already won the right to host the Olympics in 2008.
“It is a challenge to do this (bringing F1 to China),” said general manager Mao Xiaohan. Of course, we all cheered and screamed when we won the bid. Now, it's down to the work.
“Firstly, we have to develop F1 in the country from every aspect like getting the local audience to the organisation. There is also training and educating the public.”
On Malaysia's side, SIC welcomed the inclusion of Shanghai. General manager Ahmad Mustafa said a wider audience would be acquired with the partnership.
The immediate effect would be an increase in spectators from China coming to the Malaysian race. Special packages are being drawn up for them.
“We don't look upon them as a threat because each track has its own uniqueness. We welcome them because Malaysia is so near to China and Shanghai would make F1 more interesting.
“And we are not that different from China when it comes to cultural values,” he said.
“They (the Chinese) will also be here for the Malaysian race. They are learning from us.
“It was the same for us when we started out five years ago and had the help of Philippe Gurdjian (former SIC executive consultant).”
It's new, it's surrounded by water. And the Shanghai circui promises to be hot.