'It was a radical solution because polystyrene had never been used on such a project' It's difficult to imagine the circuit was once a swampy backwater of the city - lifeless and unwanted. When the northern district of Jiading was first considered as a site, it resembled nothing more than a wasteland. For years, the Shanghainese government did not know what to do with the boggy expanse. The city had been dreaming of joining the F1 circus for many years, with Shanghai International Circuit Co Ltd general manager Mao Xiaohan suggesting it was as early as the 1980s that the idea came to build a racetrack. 'Things didn't get going until 2001. Government officials came up with the idea, hoping it would promote Shanghai's reputation and standing throughout the world,' said Mao. Less than two years after plans were drawn up to build a state-of-the-art facility, that wasteland has been magically transformed into the most modern racing circuit in the world. What set Shanghai apart from Wuhan and Beijing - the other two cities considered as venues - was Shanghai's long-standing reputation as the mainland's financial hub, good infrastructure and a willingness by its people to work towards building their dream. German track designer Hermann Tilke recalled the challenges that were presented to engineers. 'The swampy ground presented a real challenge because we had no other choice and it was the only site that was available,' recalled Tilke, who had been given another huge undertaking in building an F1 circuit in desert conditions in Bahrain. Shanghai was the biggest test of engineering ingenuity because work had to be done on sodden marshland. To begin with, 40,000 concrete piles of between 40 and 80 metres deep were imbedded into the ground. But Tilke said that presented a challenge because engineers wanted to save weight to avoid piling too much pressure on the soil. 'So we had to use polystyrene on top of the concentrate, all 350,000 cubic metres of polystyrene. We bought the whole Chinese market's supply of polystyrene for a whole year, [the whole Asian stock to be exact],' he said. 'It was a radical solution because polystyrene had never been used on such a project before.' Because a F1 car speeds in excess of 300km/h, a smooth and stable racetrack was needed and safety was paramount. It has been said that variation of the track surface every four metres could not be greater than two millimetres, presenting builders with another headache. The circuit has three layers of tarmac, on top of a 40cm crushed aggregate road base. The lowest layer of tarmac, the asphalt base course, is 10cm thick and the middle, binder course is 4cms thick. The top layer, the wearing course, is polymer-modified bitumen. This ensures a smooth, durable surface that can withstand extreme impacts and resist high temperatures, while maintaining high levels of grip. The track measures 5.45km in length and the circuit is able to accommodate over 200,000 fans. The word 'huge' can be used in other aspects of the track as the circuit boasts the latest in safety and electronic monitoring. Race control, for example, will use 40 cameras to keep an eye on everything that goes on on the track. For safety, as well as the standard run-off areas, 174,000 tyres ring the circuit along 6.5km of crash protective barriers, in addition to the 9km of approved safety fencing.