Shanghai is considering axing its loss-making Formula One grand prix after the contract runs out in 2010, a senior official told AFP, dealing a potential blow to the sport. Qiu Weichang, deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, said the situation was being assessed and a decision would be announced next year. "We're doing the assessment. By next year we should be able to give you an answer," he said in an interview late yesterday.
China's biggest city spent US$240 million (Dh881.6m) on the state-of-the-art Shanghai International Circuit and hosted its first Formula One race in 2004. But the event has been plagued by poor ticket sales and Qiu said its fate was in the balance. "We want to create a win-win situation, for our side and for Bernie (Ecclestone) and the F1 organisers as well," he said. "If this is something we can do, and our co-operation is very happy and smooth, we will consider it.
"Of course we would like at least to break even. But there are two factors, one is the assessment the other part is the win-win situation that we can create." Qiu was also cool on the idea of night racing, which Formula One chief Ecclestone is pushing in Asia as a way to boost European TV audiences. Singapore held the first night grand prix in September. "In Singapore... holding the event at night is a good way to attract tourists to a small country," he said.
"I think Singapore is hosting this event in their own unique way but we have our own situation." Formula One events are often run at a loss with this year's Australian Grand Prix going $27m into the red. France recently cut its race over money worries. But Asia is a huge growth market for the sport with South Korea due to host its first race in 2010 and India joining the circuit in 2011. Shanghai's ties have soured since Yu Zhifei, who helped bring Formula One to China, was jailed in January in a massive corruption crackdown which brought down the city's top official.
The city has already pulled its annual Moto GP race, although Qiu said the circuit was in use for most of the year by car clubs and for private driving sessions. "Even if we don't run F1 after 2010 we should be able to cover our bases because of events are taking place in the rest of the year over about 200 days," he said. "We want to turn it into Disneyland for cars. Fans can go there if they want to really enjoy F1-style driving and enjoy the thrill of driving at speed at this venue.
"Thanks to F1 we have already created this huge wave of car fever, so in that sense it is good news." The Chinese Grand Prix is one of a series of major sporting events that have helped raise Shanghai's profile during the economic boom of recent years. The HSBC Champions golf tournament is one of Asia's richest, while the city also spent "over one billion yuan" ($146mn) on the Qi Zhong Stadium to host the Tennis Masters Cup, Qiu said.
He admitted the tennis stadium was also yet to make a profit with only a small number of events held there since its completion in 2005. * AFP