Portimão’s Algarve International Racetrack has been officially confirmed as the venue for the F1 Heineken Grand Prix Portugal between October 23 and 25
The confirmation has been widely celebrated as the kind of good news the region has been desperately waiting to hear.
Portimão Mayor Isilda Gomes said at a press conference to officially announce the long-awaited return of Formula 1 racing to Portugal after a 24-year absence that the event could be a life-saver for the regional economy. Estimates about how much money the event will generate have varied. At least €30 million seems to be the ‘worst-case scenario’, although some believe revenue could top €100 million.
Spectator numbers are still being decided, but at least 5,000 people are expected to be in the stands, with the possibility of the number increasing to 50,000 (around half of the racetrack’s capacity). Tickets are already available on the racetrack’s website.
What’s certain is that the announcement has brought a ray of hope to a region that has been bombarded by the negative effects of the pandemic. Indeed, local leaders are stressing that Portimão (and the Algarve) would not have been chosen as the venue for such a huge sports event if it weren’t a safe destination. They believe the event will actually play a huge role in convincing foreigners to come here.
“We are expecting this month of October to compare to the month of July in 2019,” Isilda Gomes told reporters. “We are a tourism destination of excellence, which is why we have to show the world our potential. The Formula 1 race will give us unparalleled international exposure. I am certain we will host a great race in Portimão because the Algarve has known how to control the pandemic. That is why we are here today receiving this medal of honour, which is restoring self-esteem to the Portuguese and especially the people of the Algarve during these terrible times,” she said.
But the dream doesn’t end in 2020. The mayor wants Portimão to become a regular venue for F1 racing. “We will work to keep this dream going and have this become an impactful event for those who visit us,” she said. The mayor also praised the role of the racetrack’s CEO Paulo Pinheiro, who she said worked tirelessly to bring this major event to the Algarve, and stressed that the region’s racetrack is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.
Meantime, the racetrack’s CEO said that the goal of bringing an F1 race to the Algarve was a “life-long dream” which has come true. “The racetrack was built with the goal of hosting an F1 race, which happened during the most unthinkable year,” said Paulo Pinheiro. He also stressed how the racetrack was able to impose its own conditions. “We chose the date, the conditions we wanted, everything. It would have been easier to host a race with no spectators on a date that wouldn’t be ideal. But that wasn’t our goal. We felt we needed to use our arguments that Portugal is in a better sanitary situation than most of Europe, that we have a better racetrack than others, that the Algarve has unmatchable conditions,” Pinheiro said.
Meanwhile, the Algarve’s tourism boss has celebrated the news as a “well-deserved prize for the region”.
“We are clearly satisfied and proud of this decision. Bringing an international event of this size to the Algarve was something we have wanted for a long time,” João Fernandes, president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA) and tourism association (ATA), said this week. “This is, without a doubt, a very positive sign of confidence for the region.”
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa celebrated the long-awaited return of Formula 1 racing to Portugal and stressed the “international attention” that the event will generate for the country and the region. He also commented on how the decision to bring an F1 race here proves that the Algarve is considered safe enough to host such a huge event. “Nobody makes a decision like this lightly,” he said.