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Domenicali hails China's importance to F1

Updated: 2024-04-24 09:07
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Motor sports fans from home and abroad cheer the racers at the Shanghai International Circuit during the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix over the weekend. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

SHANGHAI — Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali has highlighted the importance of returning to China, and the great potential for developing the sport in the country, as the motor sport series returned to Shanghai for the first time since 2019.

The F1 chief made the remarks in a recent interview with Xinhua as the Chinese Grand Prix celebrated its 20th anniversary, adding that, "we are growing the attention on our side, and we really want to make sure that we maximize our presence here".

Despite finishing out of the points in 14th place during Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, Sauber's Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu was still the center of attention at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The Shanghai native's every move was cheered by a partisan home crowd, who were witnessing a Chinese driver race at a Chinese Grand Prix for the first time, and Zhou was visibly emotional when he climbed out of his Sauber at the end of the race.

A local fan shows support for China's homegrown F1 driver Zhou Guanyu during his Shanghai debut. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Zhou was a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2014, which was also Domenicali's final year as Ferrari Team Principal, and the Italian said he was impressed by Zhou, who was "very polite, positive, smart and, of course, very fast" and "did an incredible job for us in China".

"He's a very talented driver. Seeing a Chinese driver that is able to be one of the top 20 drivers in the world means a lot for the aspiration that you need to have," said Domenicali, who added that Zhou had great potential to affect the growth of F1 in China.

"For the Chinese population, and the younger generation, they can see him as an inspiration to try to become not only a driver, but an engineer, mechanic or to fulfill any other kind of skill or competence that we need in our world. So I think he will be the enabler."

An extended run

Domenicali says there are no plans to stage more than one Grand Prix in China.

The Chinese Grand Prix returned after a five-year absence, and with the Shanghai International Circuit's F1 contract set to end in 2025, Domenicali hinted at an extension, telling Xinhua that "there is the intention to look ahead and work together".

A series of activities and exhibits around the circuit attract the attention of motor sport fans. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

"The relationship with Shanghai has been very important. We will have (a discussion) on the weekend to try and understand the conditions to stay here in Shanghai," he added. "We would love to have the race in China."

In a recent announcement, the Guangdong Provincial Development and Reform Commission revealed the "F1 Guangzhou International Circuit Project" as one of its key construction projects in 2024, fueling speculation that China could be set to host more than one Grand Prix.

However, Domenicali poured cold water on that suggestion. "I have to be honest with you, we already have 24 races, which is a big number because there is the demand. I don't think it is possible to have two Chinese Grands Prix in the same championship," said Domenicali.

The Italian added, "We have received so many requests from all around the world. We are not forced to stay in places where we don't believe there are the right ingredients for success. So yes, a lot of things are happening, but we will make the right decision in the next couple of months."

Xinhua

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