Although there had been a number of important open-wheel races in Macau, including one of the classic races of the lower category Formula 3, where many of the Formula 1 champions of the future first got noticed, China was until its first F1 race in 2004 a fairly barren territory in terms of car racing.
China embraced the race, building the biggest racing track in the world, with facilities unmatched anywhere else. At a cost of about $240 million, it was also the most expensive. It was the second Formula One track the country had built, after having created one in Zhuhai that had been intended for a Formula One race in 1999 but failed to meet the standards set by the International Automobile Federation.
In the end, the gargantuan Shanghai International Circuit proved to be too big as a comfortable place for the teams, sponsors and media to work, and it set the mark for what would be considered a size not to go beyond.
Situated nearly an hour's drive from Shanghai in the Jiading District of the municipality, the circuit was designed by Formula One's favorite architect, Hermann Tilke, who has designed or redesigned most of the tracks of the past decade.
From the air, the circuit looks like the Chinese character ''shang,'' the first character in the name of Shanghai, meaning ''above'' or ''ascend.''
Although China is one of the biggest car-buying and car-producing countries in the world, the elite nature of car racing has meant that it has been slow to take off in the country.
The theory was that with such an industry behind it, China would soon catch on to car racing. In fact, the race has faced financial difficulties over the years as it has struggled to attract spectators, with what amounts to an average month's salary in China for a ticket, and its contract renewal has often been the subject of debate.
If the paddock itself is too big to easily work in, with treks from one end to the other lasting many long minutes and with a lack of serendipitous meetings, the track has provided interesting races.
Both the drivers and the team racing engineers find the track - built on marshland on more than 40,000 stabilizing concrete pillars - challenging.
''The Shanghai International Circuit is a very demanding track,'' said Giampaolo Dall'Ara, head of track engineering at the Sauber team. ''Its peculiarities are several sections with a combination of braking and lateral forces as well as traction and lateral forces. This puts some demands on the car with regards to braking stability and overall balance.
''The straights are also quite relevant for lap times,'' he said, ''especially the very long one where you need speed in qualifying as well as for overtaking in the race.''
The circuit has provided some surprise results.
For instance, in 2007, just as Lewis Hamilton seemed to be coasting to a certain drivers' title in the first year of his participation in the series, his McLaren Mercedes team made a bad call on tire strategy. He raced around the track during a wet race with tires that were worn down to the canvas and finally skidded off into a barrier just as he made his way into the pits to change tires.
He failed to finish the race and lost 10 points to Kimi Raikkonen, in a Ferrari, who won the race, and then went on to win the title in the last race of year. Hamilton won the race and the title in 2008, however, and then won the race again in China last year.
''I have some vivid memories of racing in China - some good, some not so good,'' Hamilton said. ''I've won there twice. Both were victories I'm really proud of. In 2008, it was a very important race, and I really needed a good result for the championship, and we had a pretty much perfect weekend with pole position, fastest lap and the race win.
''Then in 2011, coming off the back of a difficult weekend in Malaysia, I had a great race, kept pushing every lap and managed to take the lead right at the end. It was a very important win, because it showed that we could be a force in the championship that year.''
China has rarely been a good track for Michael Schumacher, who is the most recognized Formula One driver in the country. He won there only in 2006, which was his last victory in Formula One.
''When I think about the Chinese Grand Prix, the fans are the first thing that come to mind,'' Schumacher said. ''For many years now, I've had a big and loyal fan base there, and it's still very touching to see the lengths they go to in supporting me.
''As for the race itself, I've never had much luck in Shanghai, apart from my win in 2006. However, that could change this year.''