Coming up on the inside it’s Shanghai, sliding into the Formula 1 fast lane with a £140m circuit, grandstands for 200,000 and oh, my word, what a spectacular finish from Tilke of Germany …
China’s love affair with spectacle is so urgent that it can’t wait until the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Earlier this month, its financial capital, Shanghai, screeched onto the international motor racing circuit with a £140m Formula 1 racetrack, complete with monumental grandstands seating 200,000 spectators.

Spectacle is vital if a venue is to ensure instant recognisability to petrol heads across the world, and in this race Shanghai takes the chequered flag. The dynamic forms of the structures and their shiny casings in aluminium, glass and steel are as flashy as the supercharged cars that tear past them.

What look like two alien spacecraft are tethered over the track at either end of the main double-decker grandstand. They give the press centre and the restaurant inside prime views of the track. Spectators reach them through two cylindrical red stair towers on one side; the racing teams through two glass office towers on the other.

Further along the track appear two rows of huge membrane canopies that are circular, translucent and float like giant water lilies above another pair of grandstands.

Away from the roaring, frenetic Grand Prix track, a sense of calm is restored in a garden of peace and meditation. Although the ambience here is classical Chinese, the pavilions clustered around the pond are unmistakably modern and accommodate the competing racing teams.

The 1.4 km racetrack, as well as a cluster of new buildings, have been designed by German multidisciplinary practice Tilke, which has to its name racetracks in Kuala Lumpur and Bahrain as well as redesigns for Brands Hatch and Donington Park in Britain.