The Zhou Guanyu effect leads to an F1 Chinese GP sellout and thousands of disappointed fans

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Photo Credits Stake F1 Team

The 2024 F1 Lenovo Chinese Grand Prix appears to already be a sellout with all tickets being snapped up by excited race goers in record time from the organisers. From April 19th to 21st the pinnacle of motorsport will finally return to Shanghai after an enforced absence since 2019 due to the pandemic.

China has over 1.4 billion people and Shanghai alone has a population of over twenty-eight million. As such, expectation was high that interest for this year’s Chinese Grand Prix would reach record numbers. Therefore, it was little shock to see the official ticket website and APP crashing within minutes of tickets being released this past Tuesday evening. The Zhou Guanyu effect was clear for all to see but so was the number of disappointed customers.

The organisers of the 2024 F1 Lenovo Chinese Grand Prix had done all they could to raise the excitement levels prior to tickets going on sale. Firstly, it was widely publicised that 2024 would be the 20th anniversary of the Shanghai circuit being in operation. Secondly, the weekend would be unique from previous years as it would include the Sprint format. Finally, the key selling point was the chance to see Chinese superstar Zhou Guanyu make history by racing on a Shanghai circuit in Formula One.

A daily countdown presented through the event’s WeChat channel (the most popular social APP in China) which started on January 1st, also ensured that interest was piqued. Meanwhile official ticket seller JUSS sports had put plans in place for Chinese citizens and interested international parties to be able to access tickets at the same time following the implementation of a website written in Mandarin and another website written in English.

As is common for sporting events held in China, every ticket was linked to a foreign passport or a Chinese ID card to ensure that the person purchasing the ticket is the person attending the event. However, that being said, as of this article being published there were already a wide range of tickets being sold through viagogo at inflated prices.

When 8pm arrived this past Tuesday, members eagerly logged on but were then faced with another unexpected issue.

Prior to the ticket launch, it had been possible to attach ID names to tickets and then the expectation was that when someone logged on at 8pm, it would take them to their invoice. However, the APPs and websites crashed but the coding still thought the ID number had been used and as such could not be used again. This was just one of the many reasons that JUSS Sports had their customer service hotline crash the following day when it was inundated with thousands of calls from frustrated users.

Despite all this, on F1’s official ticketing website, the page which mentions Chinese Grand Prix tickets for 2024 still says ‘Get ready for the start, don’t miss the sales opening! Enter your email to be notified about updates.’ This has resulted in fans being uncertain as to whether there is going to be a second release of tickets or not. Or, if F1 has not opened online sales to previously allocated tickets. Either way, there is no doubt that they would be eagerly snapped up if they were to surface.

Also apparent is that as much as Zhou Guanyu will have an army of fans, the Orange Army will also make their presence felt. Max Verstappen fans will be in large numbers because the 3-day ticket packages arranged by Dutch Race Fans Shanghai in close cooperation with the Benelux Chamber of Commerce in China sold out long before their pre-booking deadline following overwhelming demand for tickets.

Try as they might, no ticketing agency will be able to please everyone and satisfy demand, but this is a very different situation compared to the days of sparsely populated grandstands at the Shanghai Circuit on a Friday of an F1 Grand Prix weekend.

The popularity of F1 in China has been clear to see for the last few years since 2019 saw Shanghai host the 1000th Formula One Grand Prix. Having been absent from the city for so long it was inevitable that demand would be high in 2024. The real test will come in 2025 as to whether the interest and passion remains. Although, one can imagaine that key to this will surely be whether Zhou Guanyu also remains on an F1 grid beyond this year.