Michael Schumacher celebrated in China October 1, 2006 in the Ferrari the 91st and last of his Grand Prix victories. 2019, when the Formula 1 for the last time until now Shanghai International Circuitmy friend sebastian was driving Vettel For the Scuderia in third place, Max Verstappen was fourth and was still a long way from his first world title. Since then, motorsport's premier class has been forced to avoid the market, which is the largest in the world for car manufacturers. Described as an “important moment.” Mercedes-The head of motor sport, Toto Wolff, therefore calls for the return of Formula 1 this weekend in this country of around 1.4 billion inhabitants. China is a key market.

In the last race in China, Verstappen only managed five wins.

The 5,451-kilometer-long route was built in 18 months starting in April 2003. According to official information, the route in the Jiading district then cost the equivalent of about 423 million euros. It was one of the first circuits with which the then general director of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone, promoted expansion, and China celebrated its racing debut in 2004. But after a decade and a half there was a break: more precisely crown-Break. The pandemic and the strict zero-Covid strategy of Chinese politics made a start impossible.

This is also the reason why Shanghai is still not on Verstappen's national victory map. The last time the ultra-modern tour was run, the… Dutch He didn't even win a world title and only had five victories. He now arrives with three World Cup wins and 57 Grand Prix successes and will likely go for maximum points again this weekend, which also includes the first sprint race of the year.

There is no Netflix and therefore no “drive to survive” in China

You can also build entire rows. Because the forced break did not dampen the enthusiasm. According to official information, tickets were sold out within an hour when advance sales began on January 9, despite prices of up to almost 500 euros. According to Huang Jiezhi, director of the organizer Shanghai Jiushi Smart Sports, there were three times as many people on the waiting list as tickets.

Also the fact that the Formula 1 euphoria accelerator “Drive to survival” cannot be seen in China because the American streaming service is there. Netflix is not represented, it obviously has not had a negative impact. Last July, Formula 1 announced that it had signed a multi-year deal with Chinese internet giant Tencent.

All training, qualifications, sprints and main races are displayed on their digital platforms. And that's in addition to Formula 1's other Chinese television partners, CCTV, Shanghai TV and Guangdong Television Channel.

It is important not only for Mercedes-Benz, but for the entire sport to be present there, Wolff told the German Press Agency before returning to China. Formula 1 has gone through a remarkable growth phase since 2019. “We have expanded into new markets, continued to grow our audience and attracted a new generation of fans. “This growth has continued in China and the return of the Chinese Grand Prix will help stimulate this progress.”

A good racing weekend in Shanghai is also important for automakers

China is the largest automobile market in the world. As such, it is also for German manufacturers. volkswagen -including daughters Audi and porsche -, bmw and Mercedes-Benz the largest single market. But also for a brand like Ferrari. “Compared to the rest of the world, we undoubtedly have the youngest customers here,” explained a Ferrari manager in an article titled “China: a very special market.” He highlighted: “The average age is thirty-five years.”

The Scuderia has so far celebrated four victories in China: six of them with a Mercedes, three with a McLaren-Mercedes, two with a Red Bull and one with a renault. The record winner among drivers in China is Lewis Hamilton. The seven-time world champion won six times in Shanghai, most recently in 2019. It was the 1,000th race in Formula 1 history.

So how important is it for a manufacturer, especially there, in the country with the largest car market in the world, to not only be there, but also compete successfully? As one of the truly global sports, each Grand Prix is ​​followed by a wide and diverse audience, Wolff emphasized. Mercedes strives to deliver the absolute best performance every race weekend. “Of course, returning to China after five years also brings additional motivation for a strong weekend,” he said.

First appearance at home of the “Shanghai Tigers”

Guanyu Zhou in particular is looking forward to a good weekend. The 24-year-old from Shanghai has been a regular Formula 1 driver since 2022. Chinese state media celebrated the appearance at his compatriot's home at the beginning of the year. “Chinese F1 driver Zhou hopes to make a breakthrough in the new season,” headlined state news agency Xinhua on January 11. The “Shanghai Tiger”, as he calls himself, drives in a sporty manner. However, this year Kick Sauber was only left behind.

But numbers and times are not everything, it is also about emotions and emotional ties. Formula 1 offers fans the opportunity to interact with the brand on a more human level and understand the values ​​and what the racing series represents, Wolff said: “This can often be as important in the purchasing decision as the product itself”. .”

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