Interview with Portimão Mayor Isilda Gomes
Formula 1 is one of the most popular, if not the world’s most popular motorsport.
In 2019, the Formula 1 World Championship’s global TV viewing figures stood at a jaw-dropping 1.9 billion. It is a sport followed all over the world by motorsport enthusiasts who can’t get enough of F1’s neck-breaking speeds.
It is no wonder then that the F1 Portugal GP, due to take place this weekend at the Algarve International Racetrack (AIA) in Portimão, is being viewed by the local council as “a unique opportunity” for the local economy.
In an interview with the Resident today (Wednesday), Portimão Mayor Isilda Gomes said the municipality expects to welcome over 30,000 people who will have a “direct impact on our hotels, restaurants and businesses” which are struggling mightily due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our initial estimates, which I consider realistic, pointed towards an economic impact of around €30 million. In light of the current situation, the number will be lower, but we will only know at the end of the event,” the local mayor told us.
However, the impact of the F1 GP – as well as the MotoGP which will be held at the racetrack next month – could be far greater than the money it will generate for local businesses right now.
Said Gomes: “These two races represent a unique moment of international exposure and a unique opportunity to promote Portimão and the Algarve not only as a top tourism destination, but as a place to live and invest.”
She added that due to the region’s “unique characteristics, we believe these events will attract potential investors and entrepreneurs who see the Algarve as a place to create or expand their businesses. And they will have our full support to do so.
“Our region needs sustainable and diverse investment which can create wealth all-year-round and boost our economy and the living conditions of our citizens,” said Portimão mayor.
Hopes are also that these two motorsport events can help keep local businesses open and their workers employed for longer.
In fact, to ensure that F1 fans have something to do in Portimão before and after the F1 GP, the local council created an initiative called ‘Portimão Motorsports’ that involves several events and entertainment taking place until Sunday, October 25 and next month, from November 13 to 22.
There are concerts, car exhibitions, 7D simulators, gaming, an RFM radio truck airing live from Portimão and many other activities taking place at Largo da Mó and Alameda squares, 1º de Dezembro garden and riverside area to attract motorsports fans to the town.
As Gomes pointed out, this is much more than just an entertainment programme. The local council wants it to become a “concept and a brand” that establishes Portimão as a town that welcomes motorsport enthusiasts with open arms.
But this concept will only make sense if the racetrack continues to attract major events. And amidst all the enthusiasm and celebrations, many have started to wonder if this F1 GP will be a ‘one-off’ race for Portimão.
Gomes admitted that the council would love to host the race again next year, but that it is “not a decision that is up to us”.
“If all goes well, I believe that AIA could secure a spot on the world calendar,” said the mayor, adding that “the racetrack’s conditions are unique and have been praised by everyone, from the drivers to their teams”.
“In terms of what we can control when it comes to the return of F1 to the Algarve, we will certainly be available, and we will keep our doors open. That is a guarantee,” she said.
While the local racetrack has hosted countless major events over the years, the F1 GP is undoubtedly the biggest so far.
According to Gomes, both the F1 and MotoGP races will be “the icing on the cake” for a racetrack which many were “sceptical” about when it inaugurated in 2008.
“Throughout all these years, it has been able to overcome its moments of uncertainty and earn its place on the international stage due to its magnificent technical conditions and demanding but attractive circuit, as well as the strategic effort of Parkalgar, which has known how to seize opportunities,” said Gomes.
The ‘F1 Heineken Grand Prix Portugal’ will be held between October 23 and 25 at the AIA in front of a crowd of 27,500. While the racetrack has a capacity for 100,000, the number has been greatly reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic (click here).
By MICHAEL BRUXO
Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP