There are plenty of exotic destinations the travelling F1 fan opt for, from the culture shock of amazing Japan to the frantic craziness of Sao Paulo and on to a potential adventure to Russia’s Black Sea coast, but Shanghai still represents one of F1’s most fascinating challenges...
Frankly, the city itself is bonkers. Vast, sprawling, incredibly modern, impressively ancient, Shanghai life barrels along at a furious pace. And the speed doesn't get any higher than the 400km/h+ Maglev train that whisks you 30km from the airport towards the city in just seven minutes. After that there's the stylish Bund, the city's buzzing shopping, dining and clubbing hub that gives you incredible night-time views of the neon-tastic skyline, the pretty colonial-era Xiantandi district, the amazing Pearl Tower and the historic Yuyuan Gardens. There's thousands of years of culture to explore, stunning cuisine to sample and great bargains to be had in the city's markets and malls.
No one says that's Shanghai is an easy place to navigate or get to grips with but it is an utterly fascinating place to visit and one of the calendar's great travel opportunities. And that's all before you've even made your way out to the race track!
Inspired by the Chinese character 'shang', the Shanghai International Circuit made its calendar debut in 2004 and has featured each year since. Another monolithic Hermann Tilke design, the facility is defined by the huge multi-storey race control tower that bridges the track. The circuit itself is another exercise in compromise, with two tight and tricky corner complexes (known as 'The Snails'), long, very high-speed start-finish and back straights, and a technical middle section. In its early years the circuit didn't provide the most interesting races, but changes to the tyres and the cars in recent times have led to great racing at Shanghai. Tyres take a beating, strategy is a delicate balancing act that leads to pace differentials in the closing stages and the weather is unpredictable. In fact, the SIC often delivers a cracking spectacle.
Eating and Drinking
The track is about an hour's drive away from the city centre and while it's tempting to book a hotel closer to the circuit, take our advice and resist that urge. The Jiading district is a mix of industrial and residential without any great attraction and you will not have an enjoyable weekend if you choose to stay here. Book yourself something nice downtown and get stuck into the city's great clubs
100 CENTURY AVENUE
100 Century Ave, Pudong, Shanghai T: +86 21 3855 1428
Located in the Park Hyatt Shanghai, 100 Century Avenue Restaurant offers the ultimate dining and wining experience, combining views overlooking the city from the 91st floor of one of the world's tallest buildings with one of the most dynamic show kitchens in Shanghai and an extensive wine list of over 500 labels. Multiple show kitchens appeal to all tastes and feature a Western steakhouse, Chinese wok, steamed specialties and Japanese sushi and sashimi.
3 Zhongshan East, 1st Rd, Huangpu, Shanghai T: +86 21 6321 7733
Jean Georges at Three on the Bund showcases Jean Georges Vongerichten's French cuisine in a refined Shanghai setting, with sweeping views of the Bund and Pudong neatly complimenting his incredible recipes. Vongerichten's first signature restaurant outside of New York has defined fine dining in Shanghai since its opening in 2004, with an inventive seasonal menu, gracious service and elaborate wine list.
47 Yongfu Rd, Xuhui, Shanghai, 200031 T: +86 21 6437 9478
Inspired by the unique ambience of NYC style lofts, The Apartment is a restaurant and lounge-bar, located on the 3rd floor of an authentic former warehouse building on No 47 Yongfu Road, in the heart of the old French Concession. To recreate the cosiness associated with the name, The Apartment is made up of a variety of areas, each with individual characteristics to suit your mood and make you feel at home.
BAR ROUGE 18
Zhongshan East 1st Road, Huangpu, Shanghai T: +86 21 6339 1199
The opening of Bar Rouge in November 2004 atop Bund 18 announced a new era in Shanghai nightlife. It rapidly became the city's hottest venue for its combination of striking interiors, stunning Bund views, expert French bartenders, energetic DJs and a sexy crowd. Over the years, Bar Rouge has maintained that reputation year after year by reinventing the terrace with a completely new design theme every season and by infusing everything with a fun attitude. Bar Rouge is, undeniably, an icon of Shanghai's glamorous nightlife.
MUSE ON THE BUND
5th Floor, Yifeng Galleria 99 Beijing Dong Lu, Yuanming Yuan Lu, Huangpu district T: +86 21 5308 8332
Located in Shanghai's historic Rock Bund, Muse on the Bund is a spacious, stylish temple of entertainment and dining. More than just a nightclub, it combines a fine Italian restaurant, a lounge area, a rooftop terrace, pool table area and private VIP rooms, making it the perfect destination for any occasion. As the flagship store of the Muse clubs in China, Muse on the Bund will continue the brand's trend of being the hotspot of choice for Shanghai's party people.
Floors 5-6 758 Nanjing Xi Lu, Near Fengyang Lu T: +86 21 6326 9999
Taking up two floors above Eden, Mook is a tables-and bottles club with aspirations to book quality international DJs. For now it's commercial dance music, bottle service and minimum spends, though the 3D visuals and American built sound system do help it stand out a little from the pack. A cocktail lounge located towards the back of the venue provides a more intimate place to drink.
5 Things to Pack for Sepang
1. Comfy shoes – The Shanghai International Circuit is the ultimate expression of a particular fashion in F1 track construction the core philosophy of which is bigger is definitely better. The concourses here are massive, the perimeter seems to go on forever and the horizons are endless. Best bring some decent walking shoes then.
2. Shorts, a sweater, a t-shirt, a sou'wester, wellingtons, a hat, a boat – The weather in Shanghai is about as predictable as that in Spa. In recent years we've bright sunshine, pea-soupers, lashing rain and one year a typhoon warning. Just pack for every eventuality.
3. An extra bag – China is a great place to pick up umm nice things with big labels at more than sensible prices. To paraphrase Quint in 'Jaws' – you're going to need a bigger bag.
4. A total lack of fear – Unfortunately the racing in China isn't restricted to the track. You won't be allowed to drive here, so you're at the mercy of local taxi drivers and chauffeurs and every one of them seems to think he's qualifying at Monza. Every journey is a pedal to the metal, white-knuckle ride through on a vast motorway system seemingly designed by M C Escher. Just shut your eyes and hold on for dear life.
5. A sense of culinary adventure – If you think that Number 47 with fried rice is the zenith of Chinese cuisine then you ain't seen nothing yet.
5 Facts about Shanghai
Shanghai means 'Upon/Above the Sea' and stems from the city's location on the Huangpu River, where the Yangtze River empties into the East China Sea. The city is also known as 'Hu' for short in Chinese (a contraction of Hu Du, meaning 'harpoon ditch').
Shanghai is one of the most populous cities in China. It has a permanent resident population of 23 million people. Despite its vastness Shanghai still only accounts for 1.1 per cent of the Chinese population.
Shanghai is divided into 16 districts. In all there are 205 towns, nine townships, 99 sub-district committees, 3,278 neighborhood committees and 2,935 villagers' committees in the city.
Originally a fishing and textiles city, Shanghai grew massively after the 1842 Treaty of Nanking opened it to foreign powers. The British, French, Americans, Germans, and Russians moved in and trade boomed. So much so that the city was dubbed 'The Paris of the East' in 1920s and 1930s.
The word 'bund' means an embankment or an embanked quay. The word comes from the Persian word band, through Hindustani, meaning an embankment, levee or dam.