The Chinese Grand Prix is one of the best value for the money grands prix on the calendar. It is amazing how much of the track you can see from most grandstand seats. The Shanghai International Circuit is easy to get to, has outstanding facilities and most grandstands boast views of several turns, over the catch fence.
It is also one of the best F1 weekends to get in touch with your favourite driver or team personnel. The Chinese round is well known by journalists for its red tape nightmare, even if it is getting better year-on-year. Access to Facebook and Twitter remains difficult too. As a result, a lot of the media doesn't even bother turning up to Shanghai for the Formula 1, giving the main actors of the show some reprieve, and the resourceful fan a chance of meeting some of their heroes.
View from Grandstand B5 - Image: MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team
This year's grand prix takes place from the 18th to the 20th April 2014 and it will be interesting to see if the growth in popularity from the last couple of editions is sustained despite the strong criticism of the noise, or lack of. The support race will once again be provided by the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
Shanghai is China's most accessible city for westerners and a modern metropolis offering some fascinating sightseeing opportunities, good bars and restaurants. It is also just five hours away by train from Beijing, via a high-speed rail link.
1 // Location and accommodation
2 // Money matters
3 // Ticket prices
4 // Which grandstand to choose
5 // Tips and recommendations
6 // GrandPrixAdvisor fixes
7 // Useful links to prepare your trip to Shanghai
Getting to and from the circuit is very convenient whether by car, taxi or train. The journey takes about 50 minutes from Downtown Shanghai; and 90 minutes from Pudong International Airport.
From East Nanjing Road or People’s Square in the city centre, where most visitors are expected to stay, take a Line 2 train and change at Jiangsu Road for Line 11. This line has two branches and only the trains going to Anting stop at the Shanghai Circuit station. The exit of the station is about 300 yards from Gate 1 (behind the main grandstand) and 500 yards from Gate 11 (behind grandstand K).
A taxi ride from the most popular hotel locations is about 60 minutes away from the track, depending on traffic conditions, which can sometimes mean gridlock. Getting a cab back from the SIC after the race could prove difficult, however, a train back to the city centre should be no problem.
View from Grandstand A-High - Image: MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team
Whilst considered a 'fly-away' destination, the Chinese GP is far from being the most expensive in the region. I fact, it is the second cheapest F1 weekend in Asia after Malaysia.
Airfares and hotel prices are relatively low, food and drinks at the track not overly expensive either.
Return airfares to Shanghai start from:
• $1,000 from Manama (Bahrain)
• £600 from London
• €800 from Frankfurt
• $1,100 from New York
• S$500 (direct) or S$400 (1 stop) from Singapore
• A$1,400 (direct) or A$1,300 (1 stop) from Sydney
Four-night accommodation from: ¥730 / $130 / £90 / €100 for a three star double/twin room with a review score of 7/10 or more on Booking.com.
Food and drinks: ¥1,200 / $200 / £140 / €160 per person for four to five days.
One-way taxi journey:
• From Pudong International Airport to Downtown Shanghai: ¥200 / $35 / £25 / €30
• From Downtown Shanghai to the circuit: ¥250 / $45 / £30 / €35 (inclusive of ¥100 road tolls)
• From Pudong International Airport to the circuit: ¥400 / $70 / £50 / €60 (inclusive of ¥100 road tolls)
One-way metro fare to Shanghai Circuit from:
• Downtown Shanghai ¥6 / $1 / 70p / €0.80
• Anting ¥4 / $0.70 / 50p / €0.60
• Pudong International Airport ¥9 / $1.50 / £1 / €1.20
Tourist visa: from $30 / £20 / €35 / A$50 / C$50 depending on your length of stay and your nationality.
Food and drinks: ¥1,200 / $200 / £140 / €160 per person for four to five days.
Internet access: HK$230 / $30 / £20 / €25 for a SIM card and about 1GB of mobile data. Roaming charges can be quite expensive depending on where you come from. China Mobile is so far the only provider to offer a 4G network. The price is indicated in HKD as there does not seem to be any information available for this plan in English other than on the Hong Kong website www.hk.chinamobile.com.
TOTAL BUDGET from (excluding flights and race tickets):
• ¥2,600 / $440 / £290 / €340 for a solo traveller; or
• ¥4,100 / $680 / £450 / €530 for a couple,
assuming arrival on Thursday morning and departure on Monday morning.
Spectators in Grandstand H and Grass Area L witness the finish of the 2013 race - Image: Ferrari S.p.A
The price list of the Chinese F1 round is quite straight forward. There is no three-day weekend tickets and all seats are unreserved on Friday.
We have included a ¥165 delivery fee for sending tickets outside of mainland China. Exchange rates are sourced from xe.com and based on the highest rate since the last Chinese Grand Prix. Grandstand and General Admission ticket prices have been rounded up to the nearest $/£/€10 whereas hospitality tickets have been rounded up to the nearest $/£/€100.
Similarly to the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, there are no bad grandstands where to sit. Besides the price, the difference between them is whether they are covered (45% chance of rain) and how many TV screens are available (the more the better).
Grandstand A-Platinum is located in the middle section of Grandstand A-High. From there, you can see grid, pit garages and a panoramic view of most of the track, except for the end of the long straight (DRS/overtaking zone) at Turns 14 and 15. The roof protects spectators from rain or shine and the facilities are very clean. The pit building hosts no less than six superscreens opposite the main grandstand.
Seats in Grandstand A-High are on either side of the Platinum area and enjoy a similar views and shelter.
For a closer look of the cars, grid and pit lane, choose a seat in Grandstand A-Low. Bearing in mind the pit garages are allocated in last year's World Constructor Championship classification, Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari at the start of the pit lane whereas Marussia and Caterham are closer to the exit. The front of the grid is about mid way through the grandstand. You'll also be closer to one of the videowalls but your seat might not be under cover.
Grandstands H and K are situated at the end of the straight and hairpin, where most of the overtaking happened even before the advent of the DRS. These grandstands are also covered and enjoy two TV screens each, albeit quite small. Because of the linear motion of acceleration, it is easier to take pictures of cars coming out of the hairpin rather than breaking into Turn 14. Grandstand H is probably better suited to that. It is also worth noting that block H1b of Grandstand H looks over the entire pit straight and pit lane entry.
Grandstands B1-8 enjoy primarily the view of the pit lane exit, the complex and twisty Turns 1 and 2, as well as Turn 7 and Turn 8 in the background. Grandstands B1-5 also get to see the action at Turns 4 and 5, allowing spectators out there to follow a car from Turn 1 to Turn 8. Again, the superscreens are a little too far back to read the information such as running order or incidents being investigated by the FIA stewards. They are facing Grandstands B2 and B7. It might be difficult for those sitting on the far edge of B1, B4, B5 or B8 to see them at all. Grandstand B5, as well as some adjacent seats in Grandstand B6 have full view of the last turn, main straight, pit lane, Turns 1-3 as well as a good portion of the remainder of the track. Of the grandstands that are not covered, these would be our top pick. See image at the bottom of this circuit guide.
Of the general admission areas, Grass J is the prime spot to notice overtaking manoeuvres this area has access to two of the videowalls of Grandstands H and K. The Grass L zone provides views of the start/finish, pit lane entry and podium celebrations. It also has access to a TV screen opposite the Grandstand A.
Grandstands B1 and B2 - Image: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
For some grandstands, be aware that the view from rows 1-6 will be obstructed by the safety fence.
Folding chairs or stools, cooler bags and flags are all permitted within the precinct. No alcohol or air horns.
It is nearly impossible to find a taxi after the race on Sunday. However, if you must travel by taxi, ask your hotel front desk or concierge to give you the address of the hotel in Chinese, and insist on the driver using the meter.
Beat the queues at the metro station by going in the opposite direction, away from the city centre. There's a handful of hotels close to Anting and Shanghai Automotive City station (Crowne Plaza Shanghai Anting Golf). Check the links below in section 7.
Beware ticket touts at the entrance of the circuit. English speaking staff are available at the main official ticket desk. Don't be fooled in buying a ticket that is either overpriced, counterfeit or both.
Volunteers at the track also speak both English and Chinese. Do not hesitate to see them if you have any questions, they'll be delighted to help.
The number of spectators going to the Chinese Grand Prix has grown significantly over the last couple of years, leading to never-ending queues at the food stalls. Whilst the quality of the food is generally well perceived compared to other such events, more vendors are required to cater the hungry crowd.
From a safety perspective, more stewards and ushers are needed to keep aisles and stairwells free from spectators, who are also blocking the view of those having a ticket for a bottom row or a seat close to an aisle. (see McLaren photo above.)
Increase the size of the TV screens for Grandstands B1-4, B5-8, H and K. Spectators are too far away to read the running order or any other information without the help of binoculars or their camera zoom.
Aside from Formula 1, the on-track schedule only includes round 2 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. The time is right for the organisers to negotiate a couple of rounds of the GP2 Series. The GP2 cars were in Bahrain for the last F1 weekend and will also be on track at the next grand prix in Spain. This would also give an opportunity for the Chinese attendance to get acquainted with names of some of the drivers who will inevitably move up to F1.
Grandstand A - Photo: FRANCOIS FLAMAND / DPPI for Renault Sport F1
www.racing-china.com/ - tickets and event information (in Chinese only)
www.etix.com/unicode/online/venueSearch.jsp?venue_id=744 - ticket sales from the promoter
www.shmetro.com/EnglishPage/EnglishPage.jsp - Shanghai Metro
www.energyhotel.com.cn/en/ - Jiazheng International Energy Hotel (five star / 200 yards from Anting station)
doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/china/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-huaqiao-kunshan-SHAKHDI/index.html - DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Huaqiao-Kunshan (five star / 700 yards from Anting station)
www.998.com/eng/Booking/HotelDetails.aspx?HotelCode=171188 - GreenTree Alliance Shanghai Anting Subway Station Hotel (three star / within 1 mile of Anting station)
au.china-embassy.org/eng/ - Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Australia
ca.chineseembassy.org/eng/ - Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Canada
www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/ - Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the UK
www.china-embassy.org/eng/ - Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the US
formula1.com - General Information and schedule from Formula1.com
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