Chinese Grand Prix: Shanghai International Circuit

View from Grandstand
View from Grandstand (P /

The Chinese Grand Prix is another of the Asian inclusions over the last decade or so in formula 1. The race has proved to be one of the more exciting in recent times, with the track being set up and designed to encourage overtaking. 

When the track opened in 2004 it was the most expensive racing facility in the world, costing just over $240 million. Over the years the Chinese have been keen to keep improving and its estimated that they’ve invested a further $200 million terms of infrastructure around the track. 

The track is based in Jliadin, Shanghai, which isn’t too far away from the major car manufacturing plants in the city. The race is usually run as the third stop on the Grand Prix calendar, usually falling around the April mark. This time of year, the weather is generally pretty pleasant and average air temperatures are around the 20c mark, although they been known to sky rocket, upwards of 30c in previous races. 

Rain can be a factor in the race though and whilst it’s not the rainy season by any means, the spring conditions do mean that rain can creep in. What’s fairly common is that the humidity is often quite high as well, which can produce some tropical storms. 


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Shanghai 5.451km 16 200,000 2004

Circuit Layout

F1 China Shanghai International Circuit Track Map

The focus of the development of the circuit in 2004 was that of the track. The idea was to create one of the most exciting tracks of the season and it’s pretty fair to say that they have achieved this. The track was initially designed by that of Heman Tilke, who also played a leading role in the development of Bahrain and Sepang.

What Tilke wanted to achieve in the course layout is something that was fairly equal, in that there are an equal number of both right and left-handed corners; something that’s very rare in Formula 1 these days. The track’s design is very free-flowing, which means that overtaking opportunities are at a maximum. In fact, it’s hard to think of another track that has more opportunities than Shanghai. 

The track measures 5.451km in total length and offers a number of layouts that can be adjusted for other forms of motor racing as well, more of which we talk about later in this article. The long straight is probably the standout feature to the race as it dives into a narrow hairpin with cars easily reaching speeds in excess of 300km/h. 

The design aspect have also taken into account some of the Chinese charm as well, with track being laid out in the shape of a Chinese character (上), meaning above or ascend. Turn 14 is probably the most iconic corner on the circuit, with a tight hairpin after coming out a long straight, offering up great potential for overtaking manoeuvres. Many a race has been won and lost here in the past. 

Recent Winners

YearDriverCarFastest Lap
2017 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.35.378
2016 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.40.418
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.42.208
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.41.196
2013 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.39.506

Other Racing at Shanghai International Circuit

Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing
Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing Also Takes Place in Shanghai (Robert Scoble /

As with most of these larger, higher profile racetracks, there are a number of other motorsports that take place throughout the year. These include the GP2 Asia Series, World Endurance Championships, A1 Grand Prix, Moto GP, 250cc, 125cc, V8 Supercars and the WTCC.

As the course has the ability to open different sections up to offer a different layout, they tend to keep things fresh by doing so with each one. The courses are often set up depending on the speed of the car. The longest is that of the Grand Prix course and is often thought to be the most challenging. 


View from the Main Grandstand in Shanghai
View from the Main Grandstand in Shanghai (Drew Bates /

The idea behind the racetrack was first thought up in 2003 on a site that was primarily swamp land before the development started. The funds came from a mix of government funded and Shanghai Jiushi Group, initial investing around $250 million, but this number has significantly increased since then to aid expansion and improvements, mainly in the surrounding areas to the track. 

Initial Works

The site took just over 18 months to complete, which is pretty remarkable given the work needed just to remove the swamp land and create a strong enough foundation for the track to stand on. It was reported that over 3000 engineers worked around the clock to make sure it was completed in time. 

But, the land that the circuit did catch up on the team, and in 2011 an inspection by the FIA needed to take place amidst reports that areas of the track were in fact sinking. But, work carried out prior to the 2011 F1 ensured that the track was fine and the race went ahead. 


Initial race meetings at the venue attracted over 250,000, but in recent times these numbers have declined somewhat, and in 2010 it was reported that just 155,000 turned up over the course of the race weekend, with that number declining again in 2017 to just 145,000. The deal that is currently in place for Shanghai to hose the F1 Grand Prix expires in 2020 and with the current situation in regard to attendances, it’s not yet sure if it will remain there as the next round of deals are confirmed. 

The race itself is often one of high drama, which suits some drivers better than others. One driver that has thrived there has been that of Lewis Hamilton, who has won the race on 5 separate occasions. The next best results are that of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg with 2 wins each, highlighting just how dominant Hamilton has been for both McLaren and Mercedes. 

The Future for Shanghai

Whilst the future of the Chinese Grand Prix is secure in the short term, the number of other tracks that are currently lining up to get in on the F1 action are increasing. If spectators numbers don’t increase, then it might be tough to see an immediate future for the grand prix in China unless they are able to make the current deal work for both them and the bosses in Formula 1.