China on Monday became the latest destination on the Grand Prix calendar after officials in Shanghai signed a deal with Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone, bringing the sport to the city from 2004.
The eastern metropolis has won a seven-year contract to host races, with its circuit expected to be completed in March 2004, just ahead of the start of that year's Formula One season.
Work has already begun on the 5.45 kilometer (3.39 mile) racetrack designed by German designer Hermann Tilke.
The circuit on the western outskirts of Shanghai, planned as the largest in Asia, will cost an estimated two billion yuan (US$240 million) to build.
"I'm very pleased that we've decided to wait to come to Shanghai," said Ecclestone after a signing ceremony with city and sports administration officials.
"I sincerely hope that Formula One coming to China will breed enthusiasm for motor sport in China."
The Shanghai Grand Prix joins a series of high-profile sports events the country has been recently named to host.
Shanghai itself will next month hold the ATP Tennis Masters tournament, the climax to the men's season, while Beijing last year won the biggest prize of all, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
The deal in Shanghai follows a move by the sport's governing body, the FIA, to accept the Gulf state of Bahrain into the Formula One fold earlier this month. It too is slated to host its first race in 2004.
This is not China's first attempt at joining the Formula One circuit, however.
China spent more than nine years developing a track in the southern city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province and was expected to join the Formula One circuit in 1998, but the track allegedly failed to meet international standards.
Formula One organizers have been battling to revive public interest in the elite motor sport as millions of viewers switched off to Ferrari's monopoly on the world championship over the past three years.
Aside from the new Formula One commitments to China and Bahrain, Moscow is also building a circuit while India, Dubai, Turkey and Egypt are bidding to convince Ecclestone and FIA president Max Mosley of their ability to stage races.
Currently, the Formula One season is made up of 17 grand prix, 11 of them in Europe. It is still unclear which, if any, of those venues will be dropped in favor of Shanghai.
(China Daily October 22, 2002)