Thick smog couldn't hide the sheer number of empty seats in the main grandstand Just where are the race fans? Covering the grandstands with sheets can't disguise the fact that the crowds have stayed away
Just where are the crowds? Heavy pollution and grandstand shrouding can’t disguise the fact that crowds have stayed away from the Shanghai International Circuit in droves…

With this being Formula 1’s eighth visit to the Shanghai International Circuit, one would think that the city’s enormous population would contain enough of a fan base to ensure the impressive facility would be packed to the rafters with spectators.

But images of a “half-empty” and “soulless” venue are proof that “the country has still not responded to the sport”,” BBC co-commentator David Coulthard wrote in his regular column for the Telegraph newspaper.

With the venue having recently negotiated a seven-year extension to its hosting rights privileges – with rumours that the promotion fees payable to Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM group have been reduced – event organisers will surely be wanting the event to become financially viable in the new future.

Crowd numbers seem to have reduced substantially since the venue made its debut on the F1 calendar in 2004, and for the last two years circuit organisers have taken to shrouding the entire Turn 13 grandstand complex in banners in a vain pretence at masking the lack of ticket sales.

“You would think Chinese companies would be trying to capitalise on F1’s marketing potential but very few appear to want to. McLaren have Aigo (as sponsor) but that is about it,” Coulthard added.

The Scot is clearly echoing the concerns who many who wonder why Formula 1 continues to visit countries that have little in the way of motorsport culture while at the same shunning more traditional venues that have a stronger motorsport following.

Ultimately, it comes down to money of course, but it really is a little embarrassing at the same time…

[Images via LAT, GP Update and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.