Doubts over the future of the Chinese Grand Prix appear to have been allayed by the signing of a seven-year extension for the Shanghai International Circuit to remain on the F1 schedule.
The event had been cast under a cloud by a combination of poor attendances and remedial work needed to address problems with sections of the circuit, but officials were still holding out for an improved financial deal before agreeing to renew their contract. However, according to the Shanghai Daily
newspaper, Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management, which oversees the sport's commercial aspect, has now agreed terms with event organiser Juss Events which will ensure that the race remains a part of the calendar until 2017.
The organisers, meanwhile, have confirmed that they would cut ticket prices and address other problems, such as a lack of promotion, that have led to its losses over the first seven Chinese GPs. Amazingly, the only advertisement for F1 during last year's Chinese GP was for the rival race in Singapore....
"We've learned that high ticket prices have led to fans staying away and will try to improve the situation in the following years," Shanghai Sports Bureau deputy director Chen Yiping admitted.
The deal, which Shanghai vice-mayor Zhao Wen claimed was an improvement on the previous agreement, has come sooner than initially predicted, with sources suggesting that SIC's place on the schedule may not be secured until weeks before this year's race, owing to its homologation licence having expired. Subsidence at various parts of the track meant that work was needed to tackle drainage issues at turns one, eight and 14 before clearance could be given for racing to take place, and the FIA is expected to approve the repairs during a visit next month.
The Shanghai circuit, which made its F1 debut at the same time as the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, is due to stage its eighth Chinese Grand Prix on the weekend of 15-17 April
"Subsidence is normal because of the soft soil in Shanghai, which the circuit was built above, plus the circuit has hosted seven F1 grands prix and other racing events of high intensity," Yang Yibin, manager of event organiser Juss Event, said earlier this year, "There should be no problem, - we've communicated well with the FIA, our plan has been approved and the grand prix will be on time."