Formula One’s commercial boss Sean Bratches is due to meet with government officials in a number of Chinese cities to discuss the possibility of a new street race.
F1 celebrated its 1000th championship race last weekend with the 16th running of the Chinese Grand Prix at the purpose-built Shanghai International Circuit in Jiading. The sport’s bosses have earmarked China as a growth market and Bratches believes the next step is to bring the sport to the streets of a major Chinese city.
“In terms of interest, we would be highly interested in a street race,” Bratches told AFP. “It would be a nice juxtaposition to the purpose-built, extraordinary facility that we have here [in Shanghai]. Our intent is to bring our show to the people.
“There’s meetings set up in each [city] with government officials to talk about identifying a second city to host a grand prix. We think there’s an opportunity to grow from that perspective.”
Ever since Liberty Media took ownership of F1 at the start of 2017, the sport has been keen to explore new territories and target existing markets for growth. The U.S.A. and China are at the top of F1’s list for expansion and are considered to be territories where F1 has yet to fulfil its potential.
However, plans to add a second U.S. Grand Prix in Miami have not gone smoothly and hopes for a street race in the American city rest with the local government, which recently delayed a vote on the issue until May 23. A street race in China is likely to be a more straightforward venture once the support of the local government is secured and over the Chinese GP weekend F1 offered a taste of what fans could expect with a demo run on the streets of Shanghai.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes a second race in China would get the support of F1’s manufacturer teams based on the size of the country’s auto market.
“I think China is one of the largest markets for us and is a great place,” Wolff said. “You will see all the major brands and OEMs activating much more in China than they did in the past.
“I think we have achieved the first step, which is to achieve a sell-out crowd in Shanghai. Certainly, I think it is a big enough place [for a second race]. Formula E is having two races, one in Sanya and one in Hong Kong. Why not go to Hong Kong and race downtown or why not go to Beijing? I would love that.”
F1 will hold its first grand prix in Vietnam next year in the country’s capital city Hanoi. The circuit will run on streets outside the city centre and include a purpose-built section that has been designed to provide exciting racing. The race will be the first new event brought to the calendar by Liberty Media and is likely to become a blueprint for future street races.
However, the future of five existing races remain uncertain for 2020. Contracts for the British, Mexican, German, Spanish and Italian Grands Prix are all due to expire at the end of the year, and have all five venues have been the subject of mixed media reports about their future. The introduction of the Vietnam Grand Prix reduces some of the pressure on F1 to renew all five contracts and a Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort is also in the running to help keep race numbers up.
There is no date set by F1 for a second race in China, but the fact the sport is only in preliminary talks with venues suggests 2020 would be too soon. F1’s bosses have talked about a vision for the future of the calendar whereby the schedule is split into Asian, European and American legs. In theory, that would help promote the sport in each region and reduce freight and travel costs.