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The Chinese Grand Prix will finally return to F1 in 2024

F1. After a four-year absence, China will return to the F1 calendar for the 2024 season. However, the Chinese government's stringent health policy raises doubts about a fifth cancellation in five years, which would have far-reaching consequences.

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China is finally set to return to the calendar next season for the first time since 2019.
© McLaren / China is finally set to return to the calendar next season for the first time since 2019.

It is a classic of the calendar that is set to make its return for 2024. China made its debut in F1 during the 2004 season. Rubens Barrichello will forever remain the first to win on the Shanghai circuit, behind the wheel of his Ferrari F2004. But the track has not hosted a Grand Prix since 2019. Lewis Hamilton won the race ahead of his then teammate, Valtteri Bottas, securing a Mercedes one-two finish on that Sunday, April 14th, 2019.

China was absent from the F1 calendar for four seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic that affected the world at the end of 2019 and originated from Wuhan in the western part of the country. In 2020, the championship took place almost exclusively on the European continent, with the exception of the last three races of the season, two in Bahrain and one in Abu Dhabi. The drivers also raced on empty circuits, without any spectators, due to the closed-door policy enforced at each Grand Prix.

If in 2021 many countries regain Formula 1 and fans return, with respect for social distancing and wearing masks on their faces, Asia is struggling to return to the championship calendar. Indeed, Japan, Singapore, and China have not hosted the discipline.

During the following two years, Formula 1 finally regains all the Grand Prix events from before the pandemic. All of them? No, indeed China continues to resist a return to F1. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government adopts a very strict 'zero COVID' policy to minimize the transmission of Covid-19, which has been largely contained but not completely eliminated. With the FIA and FOM not wanting to have any more closed-door Grand Prix races, Zhou Guanyu's country has not yet hosted the new F1 races. The Chinese Grand Prix was initially announced on the 2023 calendar but was ultimately canceled during the winter.

Finally a comeback from China?

The year 2024 could finally mark the return of Shanghai to the calendar. [La Chine a été placée comme cinquième des 24 courses de la saison, un record pour la F1, du 19 au 21 avril prochain]. Being home to a large population and holding the status of the world's second-largest economic power, China represents a significant market for Formula 1. The presence of Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese driver in the history of the sport to start a Grand Prix, adds even more interest for the locals, and the country could regain its importance in a calendar that increasingly favors the United States.

Even if doubts still persist regarding the cancellation of the race, due to the sanitary policy implemented by the CCP, it is no longer necessary to undergo PCR tests for entry into Chinese territory. It is also no longer necessary to fill out any form to justify one's passage regarding COVID-19. Therefore, the Grand Prix should take place this season, finally returning to celebrate its 20th anniversary since its debut in the Formula 1 calendar.

Note that China is under contract with F1 until 2025. A fifth consecutive cancellation could darken the future of the country with the pinnacle of motorsport indefinitely.

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