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Optimism for Chinese GP F1 future

By Owen Fishwick | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-02-27 14:36

The future of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix is looking bright with the government firmly laying out its support for the event in the recently released Shanghai Sports Industry Development Program 2016 – 2020.

Although the current contract to hold F1 races in China expires in 2017, the government plan says that it wishes to promote and improve Shanghai's big international sporting events, including its F1 race.

Race organizers, Juss Event Management, have said that they are optimistic about signing a new deal, though no further details have so far arisen.

The news comes at a time when Asia appears to be falling out of love with F1. Despite successes in the past, both Malaysia and Singapore have suggested leaving the calendar, with the former pulling out after 2018.

China is a huge market for the sport and particularly for its manufacturers, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, and Honda.

Having held the race for 12 years, the country's relationship with F1 has been a rocky one.

Circuit deputy general manager Yu Zhifei claimed in 2004 before the inaugural race that "China will not only host its own F1 race, it will have its own F1 racers and team". This has yet to materialize despite China having its own Formula E team and driver in the completely electric racing series.

The first time F1 came to China in 2005 more than 250,000 spectators turned out for the race, with CCTV, China's national broadcaster televising the event to another 30 million. However, just five years later the attendance had dropped to 155,000 with CCTV giving up its broadcasting rights to regional channels resulting in reduced viewing figures.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the race's attendance, with the Shanghai Sports Bureau recommending a reduction in ticket prices and the opening of a metro station outside the circuit.

With the recent takeover of the F1 by American entertainment giant Liberty Media, it's new CEO Chase Carey, while maintaining the importance of European markets, has spoken of how key the US and Asia is the F1's future growth.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Carey said, "I definitely would agree that the US is an area of opportunity for the sport in the longer term, but so is the Americas and Asia – we certainly believe that all these are important areas of growth."

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