15 Nov 2008

China to consider dropping F1 race

3:59 pm on 15 November 2008

China is considering ditching its loss-making Formula One Grand Prix, according to a senior race official.

Qiu Weichang, deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, says a decision on the future of the event will be announced next year.

Qiu, who appeared cool on the idea of a night race, added that organisers "would like at least to break even".

Shanghai, China's biggest city, spent 400 million dollars building a track suitable for F1 and has hosted a Grand Prix since 2004.

It has a contract with F1 until 2010 and is said by F1 insiders to pay about 90 million dollars annually for the race.

But the event has not proved popular with local people and attendances have been poor - even with some spectators being transported in specifically to give the appearance of a fuller venue.

The event has been lucrative for F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone, who is believed to charge China some of the highest fees to host a race.

China is one of a string of locations which have joined the F1 circuit at a heavy cost in recent years in an attempt to boost their global image, joining the likes of Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore on the calendar.

With the exception of Singapore, which held its inaugural Grand Prix as a night race in September, all have failed to capture widespread interest among locals.

Asia is a growth area for F1. Abu Dhabi is to host its first race in 2009, with South Korea and India scheduled to follow suit in 2010 and 2011.

Ecclestone is keen for locations in the eastern hemisphere to hold their races as late in the day as possible in order to make the start time more attractive for F1's core audience in western Europe.

China has already ditched its MotoGP race, which was also held at Shanghai.