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What you need to know about attending the Chinese Grand Prix

author: 
Legally F1
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Friend of FanAmp, LegallyF1 (Lindsay), attended the Chinese Grand Prix - here are her top tips from getting to Shanghai International Circuit to track security, and all of the on-track action!

Formula One was back in action at the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time since 2019 and its triumphant return to the F1 calendar did not disappoint! Leading up to this race there was a lot of anticipation with the track being new to so many drivers, including hometown hero Zhou Guanyu, but the weekend seemingly went off without a hitch. Well, I guess you could say the rain on Friday was not ideal, but the on-track chaos it brought made it all worth it. 

This was the third race I have attended and while it was completely different than my experiences in Barcelona and Austin, I would highly recommend a trip to the Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix to anyone and everyone!

If you want to hear more about traveling to the Chinese Grand Prix including where to stay and what to bring, check out Lindsay's article!

How early should I arrive to Shanghai?

To justify the nearly 24-hour travel time from Atlanta to Shanghai, I arranged a work trip for the week leading up to the race. I am very fortunate that my law firm has an office in Shanghai, and that the partners I work with were supportive of me taking this trip. So, I arrived in China on Sunday night a full week ahead of the grand prix and spent the days leading up to the race working and fitting in as much sightseeing as I could on the side. I also ate lots of delicious food every chance I had! 

How do I get to the Shanghai International Circuit?

The Shanghai International Circuit is located about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) from Shanghai’s city center, so getting to the Circuit is a bit of a trek. Luckily, Shanghai’s metro has a Shanghai Circuit stop that is literally steps from the entrance to the circuit on Line 11, making the metro a favored means of transportation to and from the race. 

Transit to Shanghai International Circuit
Transit to Shanghai International Circuit

I was a bit nervous about using the metro, but it ended up being a seamless experience! The signs, ticket kiosks, and announcements on the train were all in Chinese and English. I even had to transfer trains and did not have any problem finding my way within the station. This is also the most cost-effective way to get to the race unless you are staying within walking distance to the track. The round-trip cost per day was only about $2.  

What was track security like (especially for foreign travelers)?

Chinese GP Circuit Security
Chinese GP Circuit Security

Foreigners were required to check in and verify passports before entering the track, which sets you up with the circuit’s facial recognition system. There was only a short line when I arrived at the track, and after having my passport scanned and getting a quick picture taken, I was ready to head into the track. Because there were plenty of stations, this process only took a minute or two. With this system, no physical tickets were required—facial recognition was used to get into the track and then also into respective seating areas. 

Friday: FP1 and Sprint Qualifying

What is it like to attend the Chinese Grand Prix solo?

While I was planning on spending the race weekend in Shanghai with my dad, he had a meeting added to his calendar at the last minute, so I had to hit the track solo on Friday. That also meant I was not going to have his help and years of experience traveling in China to help me navigate the metro, so I gave myself plenty of time to get to the track in case I had any snafus on my way out there. The travel time travel time from Qibao, where I was staying, to the track was about an hour and fifteen minutes, and there were no delays of any sort even with the increased crowds. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy the metro was to navigate, and I ended up arriving at the track with more than an hour to spare before the start of FP1. The crowds on Friday were minimal, which made my passport verification a breeze! 

What activities are there on track?

Before heading into the track, I decided to check out the fan zone for the Checkered Flag Music Festival, headlined by Martin Garrix with a special appearance by Zhou Guanyu. This fan zone was a lot of fun and had a lot of booths and experiences you would not typically see at a F1 race. It would have been nice if the entry to the circuit could have been rearranged so that this was accessible without having to leave and reenter the track each time. 

Chinese GP Checkered Flag Music Carnival
Chinese GP Checkered Flag Music Carnival

Eventually I made my way into the track to find my seat for FP1. The entry process was pretty standard—there was a bag check and a ticket verification—but I have to say this was very well organized and fast compared to other races I have been to. I waited in line for less than five minutes pretty much every day, which compared to the last race I went to at COTA seemed like nothing. The only unique aspect of the entry process was the ticket check, since the whole race was essentially ticketless. Instead of having people scanning tickets, there were a collection of turnstiles set up with facial recognition software using the photo taken during the identity verification. The same facial recognition technology was also used to control entry to each of the seating areas around the track. 

Chinese GP Turnstiles
Chinese GP Turnstiles

After FP1 I ventured down to the main fan zone, which was like what you might see at most races. There was the simulator, blast zone, and pitstop challenge, along with some merchandise stands and concessions. But the most popular spot in the fan zone throughout the weekend had to be the Heineken pop up, which was complete with a live DJ! 

Chinese GP Heineken Pop-Up
Chinese GP Heineken Pop-Up

Are there any support series at the Chinese GP?

I was also hoping to explore some of the other seating areas during my time between sessions, but track security was very strict. Each section could only be accessed by ticket holders sitting in that section, which was a disappointment because they had operated a “free Friday” model in past years. But I did snag a glimpse of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Chinese F4 paddocks on my way to see the H and K grandstands.  

Thanks to the rain, sprint qualifying ended up being a very exciting session! Even though there was so much on-track chaos, my favorite moment of this session was the point when everyone in the crowd realized that Zhou had made it through to SQ3. The roar of the fans was unforgettable! Once the session wrapped up, and post-qualifying interviews were complete, I made my way back to the metro station and headed back to my hotel for the evening. While the metro station was a little more crowded leaving the track, there was still no wait to get into the station and onto the train. 

Chinese GP View from Main Grandstand
Chinese GP View from Main Grandstand

Saturday: Sprint Race and Race Qualifying

When should I purchase my Merchandise?

Anticipating a larger crowd for the Saturday festivities and wanting to catch the pre-race setup for the Sprint from our vantage point in the Platinum Grandstand, we headed out to the track relatively early on the metro. Before making our way to our seats, I did make a pit stop at the merch shop to buy a memento for the weekend. With it being the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Grand Prix, they were selling a beautifully designed anniversary shirt that I had to get my hands on. 

Once the bag was secured, we headed to our seats for the action. The sprint race did not disappoint, and of course Zhou scoring his first points of the season was a crowd-pleasing moment. During the sprint I was really struck by just how much of the track we were able to see from our seats. We had a front row seat to the Ferrari and McLaren garages, could see most of the pit straight and sector 2, and parts of the back straight (which, fun fact, is the longest straight on the F1 calendar). 

Chinese GP Main Grandstand Sprint Race
Chinese GP Main Grandstand Sprint Race

After the sprint podium presentation, we decided to hit the concessions stands for some lunch, but by the time we made it down there the lines were already super long. We opted for Shake Shack, which had a well-organized system but still ended up being a pretty long wait. Between the wait to order and then pick up the food, we waited for close to an hour which was not ideal. Not wanting to miss anymore of the Porsche and F4 sessions, we took our food to go and ate while enjoying some more on-track action. 

The day finished up with qualifying, which was another exciting session! Carlos Sainz crashed mere yards up the track from where we were sitting, and we were on the edge of our seats watching everyone come around the final turn to complete their flying laps in Q3.

Chinese GP Carlos Sainz Crash
Chinese GP Carlos Sainz Crash

During this session, we also got to know the family sitting in front of us and learned that the two boys were involved in karting themselves and were now having the opportunity to attend their first F1 race in person. It made me think of Zhou’s story of attending the Chinese Grand Prix for the first time when he was a child, and it will be great if one of those boys—inspired by Zhou—ends up racing in F1 someday too. 

Leaving the track, the metro was far more crowded than on Friday, but there was still only about a five-minute wait to enter the station. And while we were able to get on the first train that arrived after we made it to the station, it was standing room only for a majority of the ride. Once we made it back and cleaned off the track dust, we finished the day with an amazing hot pot dinner! If you have never had hot pot before, I highly recommend finding a local hot pot restaurant because it is the best!

Sunday: Race Day

How do I get to the circuit quickly on Race Day?

While the metro was an easy and inexpensive way of getting to the track, we were quite tired waking up on race day and decided to cheat a little bit—we ended up taking a DiDi to the Malu Road station two stops out from the Shanghai Circuit. This cut our travel time nearly in half to just about thirty minutes, and taking the metro for the last leg helped to avoid circuit traffic and road closures. We also did the same on the way back from the race, and I have to say it was nice to be able to put my feet up in the car after a long day at the track. This was more expensive, costing over $50 each way for the Didi, but it was worth it to splurge for the comfort. 

Sunday was by far the busiest day at the track, and the grandstands were completely packed! Walking through the main gathering area, there were all sorts of fan meetups for Max, Charles, Lewis, Fernando, and McLaren. The fan atmosphere throughout the entire weekend was absolutely incredible and was unlike anything I had experienced at any other race or sporting event I have been to.

Chinese GP Charles Leclerc Fans
Chinese GP Charles Leclerc Fans

When we reached our seats for the day, we were pleased to find that there was a special concessions area set up for Platinum grandstand ticket holders. We received bags with sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks and could also choose from a selection of hot and cold beverages. It got a little windy before the race started so it was nice to be able to warm up a bit with some hot tea. 

Are there celebrities in attendance and pre-race activities?

The highlight of the race day for me was watching the pre-race setup and commotion on the grid prior to race start. I cannot get enough of the organized chaos, with the mechanics scrambling to make last minute adjustments, drivers mulling about, and even a celebrity sighting here or there. Several Chinese athletes were present on the grid before race start including freestyle skiing Olympic gold medalist Eileen Gu and basketball legend Yao Ming. It was unfortunate that Martin Brundle was not in Shanghai, because it would have been hilarious to see him trying to chase down Yao Ming for a sound bite. There was also a beautiful opening ceremony to celebrate Chinese culture and the return of F1 to Shanghai!

Chinese GP Main Grandstand Grid View
Chinese GP Main Grandstand Grid View

Because of the screens along the main straight, I was able to have a good grasp of everything that was happening around the track despite only being able to see an isolated portion of the track. And aside from the overtakes coming off the back straight around the hairpin at turns 14 and 15, I had pretty good views of lots of the action!

Chinese GP Main Grandstand Starting Grid
Chinese GP Main Grandstand Starting Grid

What are my final Chinese Grand Prix takeaways?

Overall, my experience at the Chinese Grand Prix was great and I would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to plan a trip to Asia to see a race! It also would not surprise me if this race only grew in fanfare and popularity after its success this year, especially with how the popularity of motorsports in China has grown in recent years.

If you want to hear more about how to travel and where to stay at the Chinese Grand Prix, check out that article. For tickets visit P1 Travel and to figure out where to sit, check out our Chinese Grand Prix Seating Guide [COMING SOON].

Already attending the Chinese Grand Prix? Join FanAmp to chat with other race-goers!

Want to check out all of Lindsay's Chinese Grand Prix content? Check out her socials or chat with her on FanAmp!

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