Saturday, April 11, 2009


Why go?
Being the industrial and financial capital of China, Shanghai is the country’s economic shop window. An increasing number of western businesses have offices situated in the Bund district, with the result that the city has enjoyed double-digit economic growth for more than a decade.

Increased wealth has brought with it a relentless building and promotional phase, of which Shanghai International Circuit (SIC) is one such example. It is the benchmark against which all modern tracks are judged. The drivers enjoy its challenge and the spectator facilities are second-to-none.

Shanghai’s Pudong district, east of the Huangpu River, houses the major bars and clubs, while the aforementioned Bund is home to big business and the best shopping in China. However, don’t let all the development fool you. The city has lost none of its Oriental magic: the markets, architecture and 6.5 million cyclists remind you that you are still very much in the Far East.

“Everything about Shanghai is great,” says Renault team boss Flavio Briatore. “It’s a really wonderful city. One of the places I go to is the Bund; it’s a good place to have dinner and a bit of a party. The shopping at the Shanghai Tang is another must-do in Shanghai.”

Did you know? Shanghai International Circuit was built on marshland and required 40,000 stone pillars to stabilise it before building could commence.

Shanghai is the only city in China to have two international airports. Pudong, 30 kilometres south east of the city centre, is the bigger of the two, but Hongqiao in the western suburbs also handles some international flights.

The fastest way to travel from Pudong into the city is on the Maglev (short for ‘magnetic levitation’) train line. Its revolutionary technology means that propulsion comes from the track, not the train, resulting in low noise, speeds of up to 285 km/h and a journey time of just eight minutes.

Within Shanghai, there are two Metro lines and several more at the planning stages. Boat rides along the Huangpu River are another option for getting about.

The easiest way to get to the track is by car. By law, when renting a car, non-Chinese must also hire a driver. This is no bad thing, as your driver will not only be familiar with the city, but also with its occasionally erratic driving habits (compulsory driving tests were only introduced in 2004).

Alternatively, special buses will take you to the circuit from selected points around the city. Public transport to and from the track will be a future option because a Metro station is in the throes of being built at SIC.

Useful tips
The best viewing at Shanghai International Circuit is from the grandstands, and there are plenty of seats to choose from. The stand opposite the pits can seat 30,000 people alone, and several others come close. Prices depend on which grandstand you choose and how far back you sit.

Where to eat?
For a quick, authentic meal, try the snack stalls down one of the side streets. For a good restaurant meal, look no further than the Xintiandi district and for some of the best food in town head to the Bund, as Briatore suggested.

Where to stay?

Shanghai boasts more than 100 star-rated hotels. Most are aimed at business travellers, with the likes of Briatore and the management of RenaultF1 staying at the Four Seasons in Jing’an. The best budget deals are in the suburbs, with the Metro acting as an efficient link to the centre of the city.

Extended stay
Shanghai has enough to keep you occupied for weeks. To name just a few sites, there is the antiques market in Dongtai Lu, the Shanghai Museum, the original HSBC Bank from 1865, the Shanghai Exhibition Centre and the Confucian Temple. For something a bit different, why not check out the famous Laughing Buddha at Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, just south west of Shanghai.

“If staying a few days after the race,” says Briatore, “Shanghai's a good place to stay, but also think about going to Hong Kong, another amazing city.”

China is, of course, a huge country with lots to see outside of its principal cities. The Great Wall is only a plane ride away. The most famous section is around Beijing, a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Shanghai.

Enthusiasts only
Shanghai International Circuit is the home of Chinese motorsport, but there is another internationally-recognised track at Zhuhai, a two-hour flight south of Shanghai, where there is racing most weekends. Rallying is also popular in China, with various national championships taking place throughout the year.

1 comment:

hemanth said...

Watch 2009 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix live online. Can Jenson Button make it three wins in a row after his successful start to the season or will Lewis Hamilton take control and win the 2009 F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai?