China has never been a traditional heartland of motorsport, as it’s only in the last 20 years that it's even been common to have a driving licence there. But the country quickly made up for lost time. At its height around 10 years ago, the Chinese auto industry was expanding at something like 40% per year: making it the world’s largest car market. It still is, with an annual production of more than 20 million cars per year, but that growth has slowed down significantly as the market has matured.
And while the automotive sector boomed, China was constantly looking for ways to leverage the investment. The idea of a Chinese Grand Prix was first mooted in the early 1990s, with the result that the Zhuhai International Circuit (1500 kilometres to the south of Shanghai) was built as the very first permanent racing track in China and provisionally added to the 1999 F1 calendar.