Formula 1 is a state of flux right now. Aside from all the massive rule changes for this season, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali quit this week, there’s due to be a new US-based team from 2015 and three of the existing teams are reported to be meeting in Shanghai on Thursday to discuss how to make their engines louder, after those new regulations sucked some of the noise out of the sport.
But the one constant that remains is China’s antipathy to Grand Prix racing. The race at the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday will be the 11th consecutive Chinese Grand Prix held there, with current or former world champions winning eight out of the previous 10 races. But after the initial buzz, reality set in.
Here are some of the problems:
- soulless track, far from the center
- expensive tickets and dwindling attendance
- coverage dropped by CCTV in 2013 for poor ratings
- lack of knowledgeable race fans
- lack of Chinese presence on the grid (though at least Ferrari has a Chinese sponsor)
- near total lack of marketing and fan engagement by F1
It doesn’t sound great, does it? The ‘good’ news is that the only way is up from here and that the race’s future is secured until at least 2017. There are more details in this week’s Sports Talk column. Here’s an extract:
“It goes without saying that the presence of a Chinese driver on the starting grid would revolutionize the motor racing landscape here. But F1’s arrogance has assumed that drivers and fans would naturally flock to the sport when it should instead have been developing new drivers and educating future fans.
At an official level, F1 is tolerated rather than encouraged here. Racing supercars at high speeds is too closely linked with images of corruption or spoilt rich kids, meaning that the sport is simply out of touch with the vast majority of Chinese. Until something drastic changes – either on or off the track – it’s hard to see F1 really taking hold in China.”