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Chinese Grand Prix: Between Past And Present

The Chinese Grand Prix is back on the Formula 1 calendar after five years. However, many things have changed in the past five years.

Formula 1 is back in Shanghai after five years since its last race in China. The last Chinese Grand Prix was in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic when the country couldn’t hold big events for safety reasons. Since then, some changes happened, and for many drivers, it will be their first time on this track.

A symbolic track

It has a layout of 5.451 km, 16 corners and 2 DRS zones that allow good action and overtakes during the race. Interestingly, it is the only anti-clockwise circuit in Asia. The track in Shanghai is quite interesting, as it has symbolic value. The track is supposed to look like the Chinese character shàng (上) which means “above”. This is the first character of the word Shangai, an homage to the city that hosts the Grand Prix.

Its designer Hermann Tilke, who also designed the track in Shakir and Sepang, created some special grandstands. To protect the fans from the weather, some structures in the shape of lotus flowers, the flower symbol of China, cover the stands.

The Chinese Grand Prix wasn’t actually meant to be in Shanghai, but in Zhuhai. However, the FIA did not approve the track. Only in 2002, the project for a new circuit in Shanghai was approved and two years later it made its debut in Formula 1.

The Chinese Grand Prix back then: Ferrari, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton

The Chinese Grand Prix has hosted some of the most exciting events in Formula 1.

In its first edition, Scuderia Ferrari won with Rubens Barrichello. The following year was Fernando Alonso’s turn to dominate on the Shanghai circuit in 2005, two races after he had secured the World Championship title. His win at the Chinese GP secured the Constructors’ title for Renault.

In 2006, it was again Ferrari to bring home the trophy. This time, it was with the 7 time World Champion Michael Schumacher. That was the last win for the Kaiser before his goodbye from the motorsport.

The last Chinese Grand Prix in 2019 was also the 1000th race in the history of Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes won that edition, and it was his 75th win in his career. The British driver closed his race in front of his now-former teammate Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who was still in Ferrari back then.

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During the pandemic, the Chinese government imposed restrictions on big events for security reasons and the whole country went on lockdown. Naturally, this affected Formula 1 as well, and the Chinese Grand Prix was temporarily removed from the calendar. The Chinese Grand Prix was supposed to make a return back in 2023, but the persistence of the COVID-19 regulations made it impossible.

What changed?

Now, the Grand Prix is back for the 2024 season and it will hold one of the six Sprint races. However, some things are not the same as before.

Last time out in 2019, Hamilton was the undisputed king in F1, and Mercedes dominated the scenes. Now, things are different. Since the end of the 2021 season, Mercedes has been living in a moment of crisis with the consequence of Hamilton not performing as he used to – something that may have influenced his move to Ferrari in 2025. Therefore, this time around it will not be Mercedes dominating the track.

In regards to this, it is worth it to mention the rise of Max Verstappen. Back in 2019, Verstappen was building his reputation as Mad Max for his aggressive style of driving, really pushing to the limit. After his first World Championship, Max became the solid and consistent champion that he is today.

In 2019, Sebastian Vettel was still with Scuderia Ferrari and celebrated in China a podium. At the end of the following season, Vettel left Maranello for a place in Aston Martin. At the end of 2022, he retired from Formula 1 altogether.

F1 has also gained some new faces since 2019, including a Chinese driver. Guanyu Zhou made his debut in 2022 with what once was Alfa Romeo, now Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber. This year, it will be his first home race in his F1 career.

Zhou is not the only driver who will be experiencing the F1 Chinese GP. It will be a first for Yuki Tsunoda, who debuted in 2021, as well as the 2023 rookies Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri.

As for the 2019 rookies, George Russell, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris, they had their chance to drive on this track in 2019. However, it was their first and last time there. For this reason, they can still be considered rookies on the Shanghai circuit.


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