Race is on to find first Formula One driver from China
China's staging of their first ever F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai will not just spark a rise in the sales of automobiles but it will also inspire the locals to take up motorsports.
With China now part of the F1 family and welcoming their first ever MotoGP next year, the car giants are looking to tap into the vast market of the world's most populous country.
China are predicted to surpass Japan as the biggest automobile industry in two years' time and they would certaily want to have a F1 driver of their own.
Speaking at a press briefing, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley is predicting a bright future for motorsports in China.
“This is a significant event for F1 and for the country. The enormous population of this country means that the potential to search for someone to be a top driver is always there,” said Mosley.
“When more people own cars, more people will drive and they will start to think about competing.
“And when Chinese drivers find success on the international arena, the whole country will be behind them and that generates even bigger interest in the sport.”
The race is already on to become the first Chinese F1 driver. Among those already making the grade in the lower formulas are Tung Ho Pin, Chen Congfu and Jiang Tengyi.
The 22-year-old Ho Pin dominated the inaugural BMW Formula Asia Championship last year, winning 12 of the 14 rounds and he was rewarded with a test drive for the BMW-Williams team at the Jerez Circuit in Spain.
Having made history as the first Chinese driver to test a F1 car, Ho Pin has moved on.
Ho Pin, whose parents hails from Zhejiang Province, is now competing in the prestigious Recaro F3 Championships in Holland and he has recorded two-podium finishes in eight races thus far.
Congfu is also challenging strongly to become an F1 driver.
The Beijing-born Confu has been signed up by McLaren-Mercedes and he is under their drivers' development programme.
The 20-year-old Confu test drove a McLaren F1 car at the Shanghai Circuit earlier this month and is now taking part in the British Formula Renault Championships.
Tengyi, who is 19 and a native of Shanghai, has spent the last two years racing in Europe. He competed in the German Formula Renault Championships last year before transferring to Italian Renault this year.
On the circuit itself, Mosley was amazed by its grandeur.
“It's for sure one of the best circuits in the world, if not the best,” he said.
The Shanghai government spent US$325 million (2.6 billion yuan) to built the circuit edge on a former swamp area and incorporated cutting edge architectural technologies to it.
Among the unique characteristics of the circuit are two wing-like structures straddling the main grandstand area, one housing a restaurant and the other the Media Press Centre.
The arrangement of the team buildings is also sitting on stilts atop a water lagoon, in what is a first for F1.
The circuit has a capacity for 200,000 but the organisers put a cap on the limit, allowing only 150,000 spectators to buy tickets.