China could be about to call time on its showpiece Formula One grand prix after FIA on Tuesday released the schedule for next season with the Shanghai race marked as provisional, having yet to secure a commercial rights deal with the F1 group.
The provisional calendar lists 21 races for next season with the French Grand Prix returning to the fold for the first time in 10 years, but China and Singapore are yet to be rubber-stamped.
A spokesman for race organiser Shanghai International Circuit would only confirm negotiations with Formula One were ongoing, but said there was unlikely to be a decision made until December.
That means the future of the race will be up in the air until just five months before the proposed date for the 2018 edition.
Since it was first held in 2004, there have been intermittent rumours over the future of the Shanghai race and its viability amid falling attendances.
Before the last seven-year deal was struck in 2010, it was reported that organisers had failed to see a profit in the first seven years of operation.
At that time, former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone criticised organisers, saying they “didn’t know how to market the event”.
A deal was eventually inked at the eleventh hour after Formula One bosses agreed to reduce the licence fee, which was reported to be among the highest to host a race on the calendar.
Earlier this year it was announced that the Malaysian Grand Prix would be scrapped from 2018 after 19 years on the F1 calendar.
At that time the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak, revealed: “The cabinet has agreed to end the contract after considering lowering returns to the country compared to the cost of hosting the championships.”
Last November, then F1 chief Ecclestone revealed the Singapore Grand Prix was set to be scrapped and blasted the Lion City in an interview with Auto Motor Und Sport saying it had shown ingratitude after F1 had put the city on the map.
“Look at what we have done for Singapore,” said the erstwhile F1 boss. “Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix anymore.”
The abrasive Ecclestone left his role with Formula One in January after Liberty Media completed a multi-billion-dollar takeover of the brand.