The question of Shanghai

THE news from China that Shanghai has a deal to stage a Chinese Grand Prix between 2004 and 2010 should be treated with care because similar deals in the past have not resulted in races taking place. The usual practice is that a deal is put in place conditional on the facilities being found to be up to scratch and the financial arrangements all being in place. But the Formula One company does not do firm deals with race organizers unless there is a race track which is finished and ready to go. A few months ago we were all reporting about a Russian GP in Moscow and this has now completely disappeared from the agenda.

At the same time there is no doubt that the Chinese market is the one which Formula 1 wants to break into as quickly as possible and Shanghai would be a good place to do it. Beijing also has plans for a Formula 1 race at some point in the long term future but is currently concentrating on the staging of the Olympic Games in 2008.

The big question is how the calendar can be structured to include all the races that want to have a date. The second big new race being planned is in Bahrain although there are other less credible Middle Eastern races being touted about. Bahrain has been working quietly on a race for the last three years, doing what it is told to do and not making any public statements. The work on the track is already well advanced and money is not a problem as the government is fully behind the plan, part of a huge revamping of the way in which the Kingdom of Bahrain operates and is viewed by the world. The Grand Prix is part of a much bigger plan in much the same way as the Malaysian GP was part of Dr. Mahathir's scheme to turn his country into a high technology center by the year 2020.

The focus must therefore be on which of the European races can be cut from the calendar as the teams remain adamant that they will not do more races. At the moment the two races in France (Monaco is effectively in France), Germany and Italy may be justifiable from an economic point of view but they are hard to justify when one considers the global picture.

At the weekend Max Mosley, the FIA President, told the Reuters newsagency that "I think the British GP is very much one of the traditional races and provided it is properly run and properly sited then there is no realistic chance that it would be lost."

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