Team McLaren Fan Blog: Zhao Yi
I’m a 26-year-old Shanghainese, I was born in Shanghai, a city blended with diverse culture across the world. As you may know, there are both Chinese and Western styles of architecture on the west side of the Bund, also called Wanguo Building Complex. I recommend you go and enjoy the night scenes there if you have a chance to visit my home city.
My first F1 race experience dated back to 2005 in Shanghai, I’ll never forget I was sitting in the grass grandstand to cheer on Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. Watching the roaring MP4-20 speeding past on the track brought the world-class motor racing event so close to me. I was happy to meet other McLaren fans in 2005 and we now gather to support McLaren during the F1 weekend in Shanghai every year and hang out together from time to time ever since. Our friendship lasts for 10 years as the China GP tenure goes!
Here I’d like to make a special mention to the Chinese F1 fans as I believe they’re the most enthusiastic fans in the world! Every year when the F1 teams, drivers and media visit Shanghai, they will be warmly welcomed by lots of fans out at the airport and greeted by passionate fans outside the hotel where they stay in Shanghai. Drivers can often receive small gifts from fans when they arrive at the airport, leave the hotel or when they go back to the hotel. I can honestly say racing drivers enjoy the Hollywood star treatment here.
Shanghai circuit is a lucky place for McLaren, we remember many moments here during the past years, especially Lewis’s win in 2008 which contributed to his world championship in Brazil, epic one-two finish in 2010 and Lewis’ thrilling win despite the fuel leakage before the start of the race here in 2011. We hope to witness another victory from McLaren this time!
Taking the Metro Line 11 from downtown to the track is the most convenient and fastest way for us as we arrived at the track to attend the autograph session on Thursday afternoon. Kevin and Jenson were very nice and greeted fans - there were lots of fans there asking for autograph and the McLaren duo signed their names patiently. After the autograph session, we saw McLaren mechanics are working hard on both cars in the garages and David Redding sitting on the pitwall to debug the devices.
The weather this week is “typically April”, normally it’s damp, gloomy and cold during this period of time in Shanghai and that makes the race tricky and unpredictable. My friends and I were standing on the main grandstand facing McLaren’s garage during FP1 where we could also follow the lap times displayed on the big screen. We walked to Grandstand B in the afternoon for FP2 after lunch time, in my opinion, Grandstand B has the best view of race start and watching cars entering into turn 1 - I remember I noticed Alonso’s jump start clearly in 2010 from this position.
We went back to the downtown after the Friday free practice session was over and headed to Grand Gateway for Jenson’s TAG Heuer event. Jenson was stunning when he showed up at 7:30pm in his suit. His handsomeness made the onlookers around think he’s a movie star or model. Meeting our racing hero off track is undoubtedly wonderful experience for us, his girlfriend Jessica Michibata and physio Michael Collier were also lovely as well!
According to the local weather forecast, it should be a wet qualification session on Saturday and it’s colder than yesterday with continuous moderate rain. We hung the McLaren flags and Union Jack flags in front of McLaren’s garage to support the team. It’s quite disappointing that both cars were unable to get into Q3, anyway, we are hopeful of scoring points tomorrow as the weather will getting better.
The rain stopped on Sunday and it’s warmer than yesterday. We’ve put on our rocket red T-shirt out of superstition because the color of red means good luck and auspiciousness in China. The Driver’s Parade is always the highlight of the Chines GP and we were crying out Jenson and Kevin’s name as we saw the drivers waving to the fans on Grandstand and the fans waving back with their flags to attract attention from their F1 heroes. It’s worth mentioning that Kimi Raikkonen has the largest fan base here in China, especially amongst young female fans!
The cars set out from the garage to get to the grid after the simple opening ceremony, we are looking at the pre-race preparation of Jenson and Kevin when we spotted Ron Dennis walking on the grid along with his girlfriend - this is the first time he appeared at China GP since 2008. After the tyre blankets were removed from both cars, we found that two cars use different tyres, we are looking forward to see if there will be a favorable turn for the team during the race. Eventually it’s a frustrating race for the team, both cars are lacking of pace and scored no points at all with Jenson finished 11th and Kevin 13th but, as dedicated McLaren fans, we do believe the team will bounce back soon and the reunion with Honda will open another glorious chapter for McLaren next year.
It’s a coincidence that we met across McLaren’s Press Officers when we were about to leave the track and they expressed how much they appreciated all our loyal support throughout the years and told us the team will get back to the front soon. We’d like to show our gratitude to Steve and Silvia for their kindness, especially as they helped us to take a group photo in rocket red T-shirt with Lewis in 2011.
I once went outside of China on an F1 journey in 2012 to Singapore to experience the night race - the atmosphere there was quite different from Chinese GP but it was great to watch the race under the spotlight street. I wish to take a journey to Silverstone supporting McLaren at the home Grand Prix in future!
Just like the Phoenix Nirvana, Team McLaren will rise from these difficult times and we’ll win the world championship back soon! #BelieveInMcLaren