13 April 2018

Digging under the great wall...

The joys of China are somewhat muted when one visits as a member of the Formula 1 circus. There's no time to see all the country's incredible things and there is a fundamental disconnect between the reason for holding the race (telling the world that China is open for business and a good place to visit) when the government does everything possible to stop us communicating with the world, using the celebrated Great Firewall of China.

This year was harder than ever with access to the internet and sites that the government does not want people in China to access. This is part of a sweeping crackdown aimed at suppressing dissent with highly sophisticated electronic blocking of access to major Western websites and social media outlets. This is so advanced that it can now block some of the virtual private networks (VPNs) that are normally used to tunnel under the Great Firewall.

The race does not make a great deal of sense as a result but F1 will continue to visit Shanghai on the basis that there is a contract, and a very lucrative one, by all accounts. Adding to the incongruity of the logic was the appearance in the paddock this year of what looks like members of the People's Liberation Army in full riot gear, which consists of German-Style helmets and body armour. F1 folk can be difficult, but it seemed a little bit like overkill to have the equivalent of SWAT teams in the paddock.  And while some protocol officers might try to argue that they are there for our defence, that is not how it feels. I am not a great military strategist but a defence perimeter generally faces outwards...

On Friday in Shanghai, the skies were grey, the track action not very exciting and then there was a massive rainstorm, which one hopes will clear the air of some of the pollution and make Saturday  a warm, sunny day.

« Three and a half hours after the race...

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