Organizer clarifies Chinese GP status

It was all a misunderstanding. Ain't that the way? Reuters has reported that the expectation of the Chinese Grand Prix bowing out of Formula One after the 2009 race was faulty translation. The news agency quoted Leon Sun, general manager of ...

It was all a misunderstanding. Ain't that the way?

Reuters has reported that the expectation of the Chinese Grand Prix bowing out of Formula One after the 2009 race was faulty translation.

The news agency quoted Leon Sun, general manager of event management for organizers Juss Events, as saying quotes attributed to Shanghai's deputy sports director, Qiu Weichang, were incorrect.

"I've spoken to Mr. Qiu, and he never said the grand prix was going to leave China," Sun told Reuters. "I think it's probably some misunderstanding of translation. I would say [the race] is likely to stay after 2010."

The 2009 Chinese Grand Prix will take place in April, a change from the October date the race previously held.

Stories that the Chinese race, for which a circuit designed by Hermann Tilke was built at a cost of more than $300 million, would be off the schedule after only five years gave appearance that China might be more affected by the world's financial crisis than first indicated. Able to accommodate 200,000 spectators, the venue has yet to attract that number in a country of more than a billion people where ticket prices, among the lowest in F1, are equivalent to an average worker's monthly pay. Only the United States Grand Prix, which ended in 2007 after eight years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, offered comparably priced tickets.

Sun took over organizing duties for the Chinese race this year, Reuters reported. He called Formula One a "very good" product and a "very good" event for Shanghai, which recently lost three major sporting events. A world champion motorcycling event, the Asian Open golf tournament, and the Masters Cup tennis tournament have decamped. Although Shanghai will play host to a Masters tennis tournament, loss of the Masters series finale to London represents a step down for Chinese ambitions. The Masters Cup ranks in status just below a grand slam.

Sun told Reuters that Formula One is a long-term project and crowd growth requires time. He said a move from fall to spring will allow the race to be staged free of a glut of high-profile sports events on the city's late-season calendar.

"Research shows there are more and more race fans in China, so I don't think we will say 'no' to the Formula One grand prix," Sun told Reuters.

Sun also told Reuters that "internal discussions" would take place before contract extension negotiations begin with F1's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone was quoted at this year's race as saying the Chinese race had a long future in the sport.

Also in the works is a return of a grand prix in France after sponsors withdrew a few weeks ago as the global money crisis hit and the 2009 race collapsed. A venue change from Magny-Cours was already in the works, but a race at the European Disneyland near Paris has fallen through also owing to finances. Sites at Sarcelles, north of Paris, and Flins-sur-Seine, in the northwest, are under consideration. Ecclestone said he expects France to be off the F1 calendar for the next two years. Return of a US Grand Prix has been mooted but no deals done.

Another race that fell off the 2009 calendar, the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal, failed in a bid to restore required funds. Expected to carry 19 races, the 2009 calendar is down to 17.

Away from racing, like Kimi Raikkonen before him via Finland's postal authorities, Britain's Lewis Hamilton is to be pictured on a stamp issued by his nation's post office. The Royal Post will issue the stamp in January to commemorate the FIA Formula One World Driver's Champion. ... Belgian Karen Minier, former F1 reporter for French television and fiancee of David Coulthard, has given birth to a baby boy. ... In time for baby needing a new pair of booties, just retired driver Coulthard, 37, has been named to BBC Television's F1 broadcast team for 2009 along with former driver and ITV commentator Martin Brundle, former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan, anchor Jake Humphrey and former F1 reporter Jonathan Legard of BBC 5 Live Radio. BBC returns to televising Formula One after a 12-year absence during which commercial channel ITV covered the sport. British race fans will again enjoy ad-free viewing.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Eddie Jordan , Martin Brundle , Lewis Hamilton , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Jordan