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.
It used to be that sports were run by sportsmen and women. But then, as is often the case, money got in the way and sports became more “professional”, so “professionals” were hired to run the sports.
For example, the head of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) used to be former star Chinese player Xu Yinsheng, until he was replaced in 1999 by a “professional”, an electrical engineer called Adham Sharara. The Egyptian-born Canadian also played on the national team for three years, but his biography makes it clear he is a career administrator who played, rather than top player-turned-administrator.
Leonardo DiCaprio is on his way to Beijing. That’s because the Hollywood heartthrob has co-founded the tenth and final Formula E team – the new electric race car series backed by the FIA, which kicks off in the Chinese capital next year.
Welcome to the first of what will be a series of videocasts with the people who matter in the Chinese sports industry, everyone from athletes and officials to executives and agents.
We kick things off with a discussion with top Chinese motor racing drivers Franky Cheng Congfu and Adderly Fong about the state of motorsports in China today, how soon China can expect to see a team or driver in F1, and which drivers are better – those from Hong Kong or the mainland!
[UPDATE: Mika Hakkinen qualified in 7th position for Race 1, so still getting up to speed in the car. Matt Solomon qualified in 3rd place for Race 2 but he’s competing against all the other lower-ranked drivers, whereas Hakkinen’s times are compared against the pros. Hakkinen will start Race 1 and hand over to Solomon roughly half way through, and they will swap shifts in Race 2 on Sunday, with Solomon starting. UPDATE 2: AF Corse’s Ferrari was bumped to last on the grid for having an illegal exhaust, so Hakkinen starts in 6th on Saturday, while Solomon will start in 2nd]
I got the chance to interview two-time F1 world champ Mika Hakkinen in Zhuhai yesterday. He is there in his role as brand ambassador for AMG, but this time’s he’s actually racing. For the first time in two years – his last competitive race was also in Zhuhai – Hakkinen will take part in the GT Asia series, partnering with 17-year-old Hong Kong driver Matt Solomon.