Bernie Ecclestone has pledged to continue scheduling a Chinese trip for the Formula One circus, despite the Shanghai International Circuit again using its grandstands for advertising rather than spectators.
Year one aside, the race has struggled to fill even a proportion of the monoliths that line the track, and whispers from city officials apparently suggest that there is some deliberation over whether to ink the contract extension being proffered by Ecclestone. The race has one year left to run on its current deal and, while Ecclestone appears confident that it will remain a stop on the schedule, those having to pay for the privilege do not seem to share his optimism.
According to Reuters
, the Chinese media are predicting a loss approaching $750m for the seven-year term, with Shanghai's deputy sports minister admitting as long ago as 2008 that some hard decisions may have to be taken, but Ecclestone remains confident that Formula One will be returning to SIC beyond 2010.
"As long as there is China, we will be here," he said during a function over the grand prix weekend, "Asia is growing while lots of parts of the world are dying. That is the difference."
While China, like several other regions, does not appear to have taken the full brunt of the financial crisis affecting the western world, Ecclestone is disappointed that companies there have not seized the opportunity to promote themselves to the wider world. Although state oil company Sinopec backed the early grands prix at SIC, this year's race did not carry a title sponsor.
"It is disappointing that it is not supported by local companies," Ecclestone admitted, "It seems to me in China nobody cares about branding and a grand prix is a good chance to promote a brand. I think they are missing an awful lot."