Following the squad's fantastic result at the Japanese Grand Prix, which secured a valuable fifth place in the constructors' championship, David Richards, Jenson Button and the BAR new business team undertook a two-day trip to China, ahead of the 2004 Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Richards was the only team principal to make the trip from Japan to China, although Eddie Jordan had previously visited the Shanghai earthworks, and Button became one of the first drivers to explore the territory which will play host to its first grand prix in the closing stages of the 2004 campaign.

BAR used the visit to hold a joint press conference with team partner SINA, which included the launch of the Chinese language version of the team's website. BAR was the first team to have a Chinese sponsor, with the partnership with SINA announced back in July, and the team is now the first to operate a Chinese version of its website. SINA CEO, Wang Yan, explained to the gathered media how he had already found value in the association with Formula One, while Richards explained how BAR was committed to leading the way in China and establishing the biggest fan base in such an incredibly important country.

In Shanghai, the group met with a number of high-level politicians and businessmen, including the vice-mayor of Shanghai, the British consulate general, members of the British Chamber of Commerce and, of course, potential partners. The aim of the meetings was to demonstrate the team's commitment to the Chinese Grand Prix and to forge important links with the city of Shanghai prior to the race.

The highlight of the day in Shanghai was a trip to the construction site of the $240 million Shanghai International Circuit, the venue for next year's grand prix, which will be held on 26 September and forms round 15 of the world championship.

The project is an enormous operation, although it is planned that the construction will be finished by March. The team was able to stand at the top of the completed main grandstand and look down to where the start/finish line and pit complex will be. A circuit engineer took the time to explain the project in detail.

"The Shanghai circuit looks like it will be a good medium-speed track when it is finished, and there appear to be a lot of overtaking opportunities," Button commented, "It looks exciting and challenging, and I am looking forward to racing there."

The day in Beijing played host to a photoshoot of Button together with the BAR-Honda 005 and Guan Qi, otherwise known as Miss China 2003. The British driver also managed to find time to visit the ancient imperial palaces of Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square which, with the capacity to hold one million people, is thought to be the biggest square in the world.

"This was my first trip to China, and we had such a busy schedule I didn't get much time to explore," Button admitted, "However, there are clearly a great number of Formula One fans here, and I am very appreciative of the amount of support they have already given us. I can't wait to come back for the race."

Following the visit, Richards remarked that he was glad to get the chance to return to China, where he had not been since a rally visit some years previously.

"After the excitement and tension of the race in Japan, it's been a welcome change to visit such an interesting country," he related, "I haven't been to China for five years, and the progress during this period of time has been amazing. I can now understand why it's one of the most dynamic economies in the world as the pace of development is astounding.

"While we were in China, we also visited the circuit and, when completed next summer, I am sure it will be the best Formula One venue in the world. We've been received very well everywhere and there is an excellent knowledge of the current situation and opportunities in Formula One with everyone we have met. It's quite clear that the team is going to receive a very warm welcome in Shanghai next September.

"We are pleased to be developing our relationship with SINA and we are determined to build many long-term partnerships in China. It has been a pleasure to meet so many important contacts."

 

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