Chinese Grand Prix 2017: Lewis Hamilton lights up a dull day as bad weather and Malaysia's exit casts a long shadow

The Malaysian Grand Prix will cease from 2018 with the return of races in Germany and France, but there was little to shout about in Shanghai as practice was abandoned

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton behaved like a champion on a day of bad news for Formula 1 in Shanghai.

It began with the news that the Malaysians won’t be renewing their contract to stage a grand prix when the existing arrangement runs out in 2018. After 18 years the organisers and Liberty Media have agreed to end the deal a year early.

While popular with the F1 circus itself, the event never really engaged an impecunious populace for whom ticket prices were always too high, and as costs rose and the adjacent race in Singapore offered harmful competition, the Malaysian Grand Prix became economically untenable.

It will be replaced by the German Grand Prix, which will return in 2018.

"It's always sad to say goodbye to a member of the Formula 1 family,” F1 managing director of commercial operations, Sean Bratches, said. “Over nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport's most passionate supporters.

"As we said in Melbourne, we have big plans for bringing our global fan base closer to the sport than ever before, providing an enhanced digital experience and creating new events.

"We're looking forward to talking more about these plans as the season progresses.

"We will have 21 exciting events to look forward to in the 2018 calendar, with the additions of the French and German races.”

There wasn’t much for the spectators at Shanghai International Circuit to applaud today as poor visibility caused by inclement weather and what a real-time air quality index for Shanghai described as ‘unhealthy’ measurement, interrupted both practice sessions.

The morning’s was delayed 45 minutes because the medical helicopter would not have been able to land at the local hospital in the event of having to transfer an injured driver. The session did run briefly as conditions improved momentarily, enabling Max Verstappen to set the fastest time for Red Bull ahead of the Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, but had to be stopped as visibility deteriorated again. The afternoon session never got going, for similar reasons.

There was only so much amusement for the television cameras to capture as spectators struggled to spell their hero Sebastian Vettel’s name properly with their individual letter flags, and unlike Texas in 2015 when torrential rain affected qualifying, there were no boat races or impromptu dance sessions between the Red Bull drivers to enliven things.

It was left to Hamilton to leave the warmth of the Mercedes garage to engage with the fans and film them from the pit lane, and then to stage a track walk which ended with him signing caps which he tossed to grateful fans in the grandstands along the pit straight.