Today’s confirmation that the Chinese Grand Prix will not return to the 2023 Formula 1 calendar means the world championship will be away from the country for at least five years.
In the year The final F1 race at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2019 was also the 1,000th round of the world championship. But eight months later, 800 kilometers to the west, the first recorded case of Covid-19 infection occurred in the city of Wuhan.
The aftermath was certainly not limited to China, although it became the first country to cancel its World Championships due to the pandemic. While many followed suit, particularly those outside Europe and the Middle East, all but China returned to the program last year.
At a time when F1’s popularity is faltering, he has been unable to visit one of the countries he has identified as a prime target for the series’ growth. F1 has consistently made it clear that it intends to resume racing in China as soon as possible. When will this happen?
Last month, shortly after it was announced that China’s 2023 Games would not go ahead, the country quickly tore up the ‘zero Covid’ restrictions imposed in response to the virus outbreak. That’s because of the rare sight of protests criticizing the Chinese government and leader Xi Jinping for their handling of the pandemic.
China’s move on its Covid policy was so sudden that some speculated that the 2023 Grand Prix could be reinstated. Today’s announcement puts that idea to bed, although it’s surprising that F1 hasn’t considered options to replace the race.
In a country where vaccine effectiveness and uptake rates are low abroad, the disappearance of ‘zero Covid’ has led to a rapid rise in infections and deaths, although exactly how much is difficult to measure (a recent report estimates about two-thirds of the total). The people of the country have the virus). However, there is hope that the race could return in 2024.
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In the year With the first World Championship in 2004, China’s love for F1 was slowly growing. In the year It is said that in 2020, the competition will hold more rounds in China before it is removed from the calendar, increasing its popularity in the country. Doing in the USA, another particularly important market.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been among those pushing for a second race in China at the 2019 Grand Prix.
“I think it’s definitely enough space,” he said. “Formula E has two races in China: one in Sanya and one in Hong Kong. Why not go downtown to the Hong Kong race or go to Beijing? I like that,” he said.
But FE’s presence in China was already taking a toll even before the outbreak. In the year A planned return to Hong Kong – the country’s special administrative region – in 2020 was scrapped due to tensions between pro-democracy protesters in the city-state and the Chinese government, leading to widespread unrest.
Multiple races in China remain a goal for some in F1. “The dream scenario is to have at least two races in China and another in Asia in the next five years,” McLaren Racing CEO Zac Brown said last April.
F1’s enthusiasm for racing in China seems undiminished, but is the sentiment shared? In the year In 2019, the 16th year that F1 has visited China, three-day crowds at the Grand Prix reached 160,000. This was just 40% of capacity at the wider Shanghai circuit, and well short of F1’s record-breaking figures at many venues last year.
The strong attendance figures at Grands Prix from 2021 are likely due to the post-pandemic surge in interest from millions of fans who have been unable to attend events in person for a year and a half behind closed doors. There were lockdowns not only in China but all over the world. But with no Chinese GP for five years, how many of the locals are clamoring for F1 to return and how many have forgotten about it?
The good news for F1 is that it finally has its first driver from the country: Zhou Guanyu. Unfortunately, he has now seen his home event canceled in both years he has competed in F1. Many in F1 will be betting that another strong season from the Shanghai native will ensure Alfa Romeo survives for a third year and is on the grid for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix – if that happens.
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