A poor advert for F1

The smog of Shanghai is the stuff of urban legend. The city is famous for its pollution, the result of 23 million people living on top of one another without too much care and attention to what is being pumped into the atmosphere. They used to have things like this in London, which were known as pea-soupers, until the British introduced a series of Clean Air Acts to clear the air. In recent times the Chinese have become convinced that there is need to worry about the environment (Donald Trump might learn a thing or two from the Paramount Leader Xi Jinping during his current visit to the States) and so new laws have been introduced to try to stop this happening, but there is a way to go yet and Formula 1 met the problem head-on on Friday when the practice sessions were restricted to just a handful of laps because the visibility was such that the safety helicopter could not land at the hospital and so the cars at the circuit could not run. It is not a great advert for Shanghai, nor indeed for Formula 1. The fans waved their flags, wore silly hats (Darth Vader was spotted in the grandstands) while a group of young Chinese ladies amused us all trying to spell Vettel. They made it finally, after a decidedly miscued Vettee.

The greatest show on earth it was not.

74 thoughts on “A poor advert for F1

    1. Yes….but Shanghai is basically a massive port city on a very large estuary
      region. Flat as the proverbial pancake. Massively industrialised and woefully
      under-regulated, you are going to get periods, lasting weeks, when air movement is minimal. Visibility in these conditions is appalling and it’s damned dangerousto fly at low level in such conditions. So F1 is, I’m afraid, going to get clobbered by these impossible conditions every few years.

      And how you reconcile the safety requirements of an emergency helicopter ithat is fully operational with F1 race cars doing 200+ mph in zero visibility I simply have not the faintest idea how you even get to quare one ! As I suspect the general headscratching at F1 headquarters fully bears out.

      Houston….we have a problem here !

    2. The problem is the smog is so thick that you can’t see where you are flying. It doesn’t matter where you go in the city, every hospital would have the same issue.

  1. I stand to be corrected but I have no recollection of smog ever blighting the French Riviera, Northamptonshire, the Belgian Ardennes, the Italian lakes or the Province of Quebec…. maybe I’m wrong

  2. I remember walking around the paddock in Shanghai (the size of several football pitches) marvelling at the yellowness of the air, smoking what must have been a Partagas Series D Number 4 (a detail a good editor would force me to remove as not germane to the story, but which serves to make the moment somehow more . . . present).

    I was soon approached by a blue-clad Chinese policeman (though he could have been a soldier, or an elevator operator for that matter). He was shaking his head. I have enough cultural sensitivity to know that was not his way of saying “Hello and welcome to Shanghai”.

    He made it clear that i was to extinguish my cigar forthwith. I was, to say the least, incredulous.

    He insisted.

    Despite (or perhaps because of) his complete lack of English skills, I said I had a few things to tell him. First, I invaded his personal space. Then, I used my fingers to count these off:

    1) We were outside.
    2) The air was YELLOW. Not a summer hazy yellow. No, this was a golden, chemical-induced yellow that clearly meant there were things in the air that were better kept in sealed barrels in a salt mine. That made one aware, with every breath, that one was doing something awful to oneself.
    3) That it was likely that my cigar smoke was actually DILUTING the poisonous atmosphere, and that I was therefore rendering a service to the Chinese people.
    4) That he could arrest me, but that there was no way (a nasty word was inserted between “no” and “way”, as is my wont) I would stop smoking.

    He walked away still shaking his head.

    I believe that this represented the Chinese government’s first steps toward improving their air quality. I now regret my lack of cooperation, but clearly my effort would have been in vain.

  3. For all the naysayers who insist on a return to to V8 and V10 engines based on the childish need for “more noise”, this could hardly be a more poignant demonstration of why the hybrid power units must lead the way in road-going car technology.

  4. Lovely little crab walk you did on Sky F1 getting out of shot of their interview with Paddy Lowe, Joe! Sky also mentioned that the Chinese police won’t close the roads for an ambulance so it gets to the hospital in the alloted time period. I can’t help wondering if Bernie would have made that problem go away with a “donation”…

    1. You would haveto closed down half of Shanghai to get from the circuit to the hospital. It would have been impossible.

  5. At least Lewis Hamilton did the right thing! It’s a pity that the rest of the drivers couldn’t do the same.

  6. Yup, left work early to watch the telecasts, sigh….

    Being in Philippines gives me a few options of races to attend but fair to say that China will not be high on the list.

  7. So the entire F1 session saw no running and yet the Porsche cars are now out on track as per schedule. I’m not sure what to make of that decision, but no action on track is definitely not a good advert for F1.

  8. View was decidedly grim on television I am sure was even worse there in person. Any word if they will extend practice tomorrow Mr. Saward?

  9. Proves to me that Friday’s are a waste of time and money. Nobody will notice any difference come Sunday night.

    More races less Fridays please!!

  10. Well this is a definite one to miss. I am glad I am not paying extra to watch smog. Will the race be able to start I wonder. Or will they do what they did here in the UK in the war and lift the fog with heat. Ironically huge fires may actually help.

  11. Well I’ve never thought China deserved a GP or the Olympics either. But money talks. With new owners will F1 be a little more selective about the type of people they mix with?

  12. I was in Hong Kong recently and found the pollution practically unbearable. Breathing was difficult and I coughed for three weeks after I got home. HK is not even on Greenpeace’s list of the top 75 most polluted cities in China. (Shanghai is 48th).

    Interestingly the most polluted Chinese city, Xingtai in Hebei Province, is only ninth on the world list of most polluted cities. Top is Zabol in Iran.

  13. Joe, what do you think of the reports the race could be run on saturday? do you think it could happen?

  14. I think you summed it up perfectly Joe… F1 really does not need this..

    Fingers crossed for Sunday!

  15. I saw that ‘Vetee’ elsewhere and wondered why they would bring three ‘e’s to spell Vettel. The background was german flags, so they do not have that many options if they wanted to spell some else’s name too. Kudos to them though for supplying the entertaiment!

    Wait a minute… Maybe they brought enough letters (but perhaps not enough people) to spell ‘Sebastian’ too!

  16. Off topic Joe – but what are your thoughts on reports that McLaren will start making new parts at the circuits using a 3D printer, and what kind of impact this will have on jobs if this becomes widely adopted?

  17. So the medical helicopter could not land at the local hospital in the event of a medical evacuation?

    There are several advanced instrument guidance technologies available to ensure a safe landing on a helipad in adverse weather conditions. How would the ocean drilling platform operate otherwise?

    You would think the good folks of Charlie Whiting’s team or anyone else responsible for the smooth running of a Grand Prix weekend would have required that operational tool to be functional at the closest hospital. The cost of that technology is “reasonable enough” for private (i.e. personal) helicopter owners to afford. How could FOM not afford it even if they had to pay for it themselves?

    Some incidences of lack of foresight boggles the mind, especially since anyone having visited China at least once before, at any time of year, will have seen fog, smog, mist, rain, low cloud ceiling, low visibility…

    Well done guys.

  18. A friend of my son lives in Beijing. He told me that the pollution level never gets above 250ppm, by order of the Party.

  19. … and now the weather is potentially bearing down on the race as well ? Seems to me the potential ‘ perfect’ storm’s a brewing threatening to close it down entirely .

    So maybe it is time F1 comes to its senses dropping the ‘ fringe ‘ events putting their time , money and effort in and back into the ‘ classics ‘ . Hmm ..

  20. Hi Joe, agreed, the show of racing cars was rubbish…but the girls in the stand counting out the letters and then having a row about who had left a letter at home was hilarious…must have made their day knowing that Vettel was watching and giving them hints as to the missing letter! Also hilarious as you say as Darth Vader (who actually got his name up on Sky as Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith), doing his “Luke, I am your Faaaather..” bit on telly with the air grab and all. Top camera men and crowd. Shame about the F1.

  21. “(Donald Trump might learn a thing or two from the Paramount Leader Xi Jinping during his current visit to the States)”
    Don’t be coy Joe. What exactly should the purported Leader Of The Free World be learning from the chief of the largest Communist state in the world? Inquiring minds want to know!
    I know it’s your blog, not a democracy ect…but what exactly are you supporting with that statement?

  22. Smog in Shangai reminds me the Indian Grand Prix with the sun unable to go through the clouds. Helicopter TV images from races in India were dark and colorless even in HD.

    No good for TV show then. Should they move the chinese race elsewhere in China where the sky is cleaner ? If so, where ?

  23. Interesting that a supposedly reliable print and web motorsport publication is saying it was “low cloud”?! I’ll stick with you for my F1 news. Thanks.

  24. Will smog play havoc with the T-wings? Surely the boffins will have engineered for guiding air with chunks in it the optimum way around the rear wing?

  25. Little aside about the pea-soupers. When I was a little lad we lived for a while in Upper Cheyne Row, Chelsea. One night we were taken to see the Crazy Gang at Victoria. When we came out “no could see”. My mother had to drive with my father walking one foot in the gutter one on the pavement and hand on the front wing and thus we got home.
    The Clean Air Act brought an amazingly rapid resolution..

  26. My dad vividly recalled to me, before I ever understood the situation he was in, going t the meetings of the Halifax Building Society Board, when each time he tried to table a motion to wash the soot form the hard limestone headquarters building. He suggested, or hinted, he preferred to single himself out for this, than get set apart by dislike for cricket, beer, and reference to mining and muck and money..

    Those “pea soupers” killed.

    In one, as the story goes, my uncle’s friend took the wrong flask into his hand, in their shed / darkroom. Cyanide was a fixative for basic prints, then… ***

    Visibility got that low. I used to have, hope in storage, just a print of a old glass slide of my Uncle’s ca. 1922… of lamp post… strange subject i thought, before i realized that the lamppost was a meter away, and smog concealed the entire wide angle scene. This was day. Bright day.

    I was reminded, the smog could pour into your window, suffocate you in your parlour. This was in the second decade of last century. The Clean Air Acts, I think were first in force 1936 – the year my dad made enough to get out of London… Or, more accurately, the Halifax had found him the furthest point away from them, south, on the coast, in Eastbourne, and he later joined the Home Guard, waiting for his papers. (being the only mortgage banker for a wide area, either gained him reprieve or somehow listed him as “essential”. Made effective boss of a huge area, I never – nobody saw him act with pretences, but i know that went to his head like a captive bolt to a heffer, he took night school until his bosses were sick of him**, no Thrift had operations south of Birmingham, they had nowhere to put him without disruption )

    The board of the Halifax Building Society, was indubitably proud of the soot marking their heritage. Supposed heritage, my dad remarked, they had never business in industry, and the industrial pioneers typically created towns and villages, in the dales, because there were no societies – Thrift or Savings and Loan are the equivalents in America – sufficiently organised for mass building, then.

    So, one can sympathise with the element of sensation, staring over the smog, and considering one stands above the time of progress and History itself.

    But, approaching one hundred years after we enacted the most basic – but then so very effective, there was no emissions gaming trickery, just banning of bad fuel, so modern equal would have banned diesel, not applied stricture to it, 5 years is the statistical cost of living where I did… do…

    … it is a crying shame.

    Because in many ways, societies like Singapore, need to be understood and learned from. More than strict laws and a well fed, obedient, population, is at work.

    But this smog, well to me it puts the mocker on the idea of a Beacon Society, a Great Hope.

    Maybe it does so in a timely way.

    We do not need false hopes, not now.

    This detracts so much from what is positive in places like Singapore, we’re almost cruel for saying these things. LM should adjust the calendar to when the winds clear the air- that’s tricky pre typhoon season if I think of HK… Can that be risked? I can’t imagine more tension building up to the race.. just a month along from now, adjusted.

    *maybe Beer Stone, the rather exceptional Devon rock, found in one quarry, (Beer is a beautiful town) of which Westminster Abbey was made, that they had to replace entirely because sand blasting destroyed the surface somehow that was a seal,and property of beerstone cut the right way..)

    ** He never told me, i dare not ask, how he even got to school. Having no birth certificate. I learned this when i called him a bastard, lay off my mom. (he collapsed,when his big bro died, it was horrifying to see him go, the man who sorted everything out, wanted or not.. I learned later, he felt unproven to his older brother, who lifted them from poverty) He fell apart the one time, ever. Illegitimate was just that, not legal, you should not exist. What a low I was never to figure that out, given no single mention of storied presumed father.. Suddenly a single mom in 1907, my grandmother puled feats to get both boys to the same school, Haberdashers Askes, only the elder a scholar…. When lending, what he saw in his mind decided. No credit scores or actuarial prototypes, then. I think, had he had a easier upbringing, he could not have done that job. Neither would he see the lapses that indicated to him spendthrifts or home strife that endanger a mortgage, nor could have he commanded the respect of often struggling people – i don’t think people struggle to qualify for mortgages now as they did, once.

    my apologies – why all this?

    this is stories of my immediate relatives, who would be 100 and 117 years respectively, if here today…

    what possible link could it have?

    I tell you why:

    because smog and pollution like this are inextricable from poverty and il health and worse, in many experiences, possibly as a cultural memory – vestigial only now – this may explain why ecologists are so strong willed, even much so, insisting on action. That would fit when the original problem is forgotten, yet a great fear is transmitted.

    Yet Singapore is a successful, wealthy, nation. By many standards a real miracle.

    Moreover it is one seen to be engineered by mortal beings, unpretentious politicians, who dedicated undivided lives, without thought or consideration.

    So Singapore is a beacon society, because it shows success made by other than accident, and achieved without the grandeur of dictators or self publicists. Moreover, it is a place where public regard of sciences is so high, you feel that should there be calamity, rational thought and reason most likely would right them.

    But smog…

    It means so much more.

    The London smogs, possibly forgotten by all my own generation, were transmitted as a present fear, to me.

    I think that the first generations to know other than industrial worlds as the core of progress and the attraction that also took so much life.. i think they know equally well, that same fear. It is just embedded deeply, or else absorbed another way. I was taught mechanics involved in things like global warming, aged 8 and 9 , in the first of the 80s years, but my school was a unusual exception, we lucked out with great teachers who even coped with the profiteering headmaster (private, inherited a place he cared marginally for, i was sent my dad knew his dad, ugh) accepted a influx form the closed “borstal system” – those kids were great, knew the value they saw, caused teachers who cared to extend so much, it was thrilling even in my recollection.. I mean to say don’t so quickly dismiss the over acting ecologist types, but instead ask about their fears, and where they came from. I simply would rather they looked with knowledge what they feared, so they could the better look.

    *** I joke now, for nobody’s benefit, my uncle bumped off the real discoverer of how Shellac caused cartridges to burn more evenly, shot more accurately, turn the great war, and settle uncle in a amazing career. But he was the genuine article. Did his best to make me see why things are, not merely how and what they are. Looked not unlike the great MB manager in the 30s, shape wise, 3 piece persistent in heat waves, focus. If Dennis had not been in competition, had more of his plans seen through more slowly – this meaning to articulate what you want ans it be subject to less chance, ronspeak is uncertainty in precise words – , carefully, I bet RD would have sounded like my uncle. Dennis at MoD best thing I heard in years,will make that man whole. It’s not a move that costs him, someone saw a lot more in Dennis, a awful lot more.

  27. i was under the false impression that Formula 1 had introduced state of the art medical facilities at every Grand prix, capable of dealing with major trauma.

  28. I know Shanghai has smog issues, but wasn’t the reason yesterday for F1 not running more to do with the poor weather?

      1. Hi Joe, regarding the lack of running on Friday. I take your word as gospel when it comes to reporting facts in F1. But I am curious as to why Andrew Benson would report it as “Low cloud, rain and smog in Shanghai meant the helicopter was unable to land at the designated hospital.” Is he (and/or the BBC) afraid of upsetting the Chinese authorities by putting the blame purely down to pollution?

  29. The NBCSN clearly said that it was fog, not smog and observed that it would have been yellow tinged if it were smog.

  30. Anyone find it odd that the word “smog” is virtually unused by anybody else? Self censorship perhaps?

  31. Considering the Chinese have built roads to nowhere and apartment complexes in nowhere it seems they could build a world class hospital at the circuit. Staff it with world class medical specialists from somewhere, not nowhere. Then get on with racing in China.

  32. The Chnese smog… I laugh when people seems genuinely surprised by this.

    The problem with China is that while they present themselves as a first world country, and have gotten many to perceive them as such…

    They are still very much a third world nation.

  33. Pray tell, Judicious Joe, you famous historian of democratic republicanism, what does the career communist Chinese dictator have to teach our poor fumble-fingered Donald Trump? Please enlighten us, O Wise One.

  34. Also be careful how critical you are out there Jo, China is one of those Governments that just imprisons people it doesn’t like or who criticise it – it’s human rights record is probably enough of a reason not to race there too.

  35. “Vettee” maybe the spelling was planted as an advert for Asian instant Rice ? 😉
    Unless it was a lost in translation moment.
    Shoddy haphazard Friday FP1 and FP2.
    Maybe they build a an underground tube shuttle to the Hospital. Embarrassing for the repressive regime and it’s leaders !!
    Will China take the Malaysia slot for next year. The smog will still be a problem as China spews out fumes from all directions.

  36. “Vettee” maybe the spelling was planted as an advert for Asian instant Rice ? 😉
    Unless it was a lost in translation moment.
    Shoddy haphazard Friday FP1 and FP2.
    Maybe they build a an underground tube shuttle to the Hospital. Embarrassing for the repressive regime and it’s leaders !!
    Will China take the Malaysia slot for next year. The smog will still be a problem as China spews out fumes from all directions as they continue their industrial vanity.

  37. It was a bit of an own goal for the race promoter and the sport in general. I wonder if you got chance to witness what Lewis did during the break, Joe? He went over to the main grandstand with a load of caps and some of the team PRs and signed them and threw them into the crowd, who predictably went wild. In an era when we are trying to encourage fan engagement I thought this was excellent and spontaneous act, with Lewis recognizing what a poor show was being put on for the hardcore fans who attend Friday practice.David Croft (who I am a huge fan of normally) wondered allowed on commentary whether he would get a fine a for crossing the track! Ridiculous. This sort of thing should be encouraged. For a driver who is criticized for being aloof and out of touch with reality by some, he seems to have more understanding than most that ultimately it’s an entertainment business.

  38. I wonder if they voluntarily refunded the price of the tickets for the fans who bothered to turn up on friday, considering there was virtually nothing happening on track ?

  39. They don’t need to focus on putting a medical facility at the track…they need to focus on cleaning up the appalling air pollution that seems invisible to them…quite shocking

  40. it was certainly as much to do with the weather and low cloud cover… as it was to do with the air pollution… i was there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s