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Chinese Grand Prix proves a big hit 28 Sep 2004

Grid girl with the Chinese flag.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 The very impressive display befroe the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 The very impressive display befroe the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 Chinese race fans pack the grand stands.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber C23 leads Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004

New venue gets the thumbs up from all involved

Over a quarter of a million people attended the Grand Prix weekend in Shanghai, as the Chinese public flocked to the city's new International Circuit to get their first taste of Formula One racing.

On Friday 32,000 spectators visited the circuit for practice, followed by 80,000 for qualifying on Saturday. For the race, 150,000 turned out, close to the venue’s 160,000 seating capacity. That made a total of 262,000 for the meeting.

Organisers were understandably delighted with the turnout and with the success of the event in general. Mr Mao, President of the International Circuit described the race as "a fantastic advertisement for Shanghai and the circuit, a business card for all that see our city and our motor racing facilities as something they can invest in on a long term basis, and from which they will get a valuable return."

Before the race started, the spectators and the millions watching on television were treated to a delightful and colourful 20-minute opening ceremony, where China's cultural past and present was represented by 1,200 dancers, singers and martial artists, as well as by a parade of cars that are built in China auto plants, a clear indication of the role that the circuit has in the future of the region’ automotive development.

The track itself was a real hit with the drivers too, but it wasn’t just the current Formula One field who got to sample it. The unique Volkswagen Polo Celebrity race, part of the Grand Prix support programme, featured a number of ex-Formula One drivers, Martin Brundle and Ivan Capelli among them, many of who now work as Grand Prix commentators.

"You have to be precise and position the car very well as it certainly won't pay to attack the corners here,” said Brundle. “There are two fast corners, which definitely keep you on your toes. As for the 'snails' (Turns 1,2,3 and 4), the line through them is not very obvious. It's very hard to find the sweet spot.”

Eventual race winner Capelli added: "I like this track as it has a great variety of bends, fast slow and with different cambers. I think most overtaking will happen on bend 6 and on bend 14. Fitness will count too as there is a lot of demanding deceleration and side pull.”

The new Hermann-Tilke designed circuit went on the provide a thrilling Grand Prix, with just 1.4 seconds splitting the top three drivers at the end of 56 laps. In the words or winner Rubens Barrichello, “This track has been really challenging, but with a variety of possible lines through the corners overtaking is possible and that is all we need for a good race.”