Shanghai committed to F1 despite attendance slump

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am

Shanghai is committed to hosting grand-prix racing in the future, despite plummeting attendances and uncertainty of China's place on the Formula One calendar, says Shanghai International Circuit president Mao Xiaohan.

'We are looking forward to renewing our contract with Formula One rights holders after the current deal expires in 2010,' said Mao.

Only 150,000 spectators passed through the gates during the three days, a big drop from the 240,000 total last year and the lowest in the grand prix's four-year history.

Typhoon Krosa might have contributed, along with a policy of banning free tickets and a cluster of high-profile sports events in Shanghai - such as the Women's World Cup soccer and Special Olympics.

Mao also played down the downfall of his flamboyant former deputy, Yu Zhifei.

'Everything is on the right track, except for Mr Yu,' said Mao. 'He did his part, but Formula One in China is not all about one individual.'

But for Yu, it apparently was. Second fiddle to Mao, he often left the impression he was the public face of the Chinese GP, thanks to his relationship with disgraced former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu.

Yu's arrest last year, following the sacking of Chen, cast doubts over motor racing's future in China until prosecutors eventually indicted him over alleged wrongdoing that stemmed from Yu's career as a state-owned soccer club manager before his SIC stint at the Shanghai circuit.

Insiders agreed there was 'a little hole to be filled' by Yu's departure.

'Yu always tried different things and was passionate in exploring uncharted waters, which helped the promotion [of the event],' said a mainland motor sport agent. 'That made him a real personality. The Yu-less management has done quite a good job, but we badly need some new character to fill the little hole.'