Algarve racetrack boss Paulo Pinheiro delivered a harsh reality check to racing fans in Portugal this week by warning that it will be “very hard” to bring a Formula 1 race back to the country.
“Formula 1 is definitely the pinnacle of international motorsports, but it is very hard for a country of our size to gather all the conditions needed to host the event,” he told Lusa news agency.
This does not mean it is impossible.
“Portugal is in fashion, everyone looks at the country with fondness which is good, but a series of factors need to be combined to bring F1 here, namely financial,” added the man at the helm of Parkalgar, which manages the racetrack.
While AIA has been in talks with F1 bosses “for a long time”, Pinheiro says that there are no concrete developments regarding a race in Portugal.
He believes rumours about the championship’s return to the country may have gained traction due to the racetrack’s announcement in April that it was officially ready to host an F1 race.
“It may have been then that talk of a race in Portugal intensified,” he explained.
But the truth is that there is still “a lot of work to do before the dream of bringing F1 to Portugal becomes reality”.
“We have a racetrack, parking, infrastructures and hotels, which makes our bid a valuable one. The Algarve is a fantastic place, which boasts the conditions to host a race, but there are 15 countries hosting one. That is why this is a complex and laborious process, but we are hopeful that we will be able to host an F1 race one day.”
The racetrack’s main event continues to be the Superbike FIM World Championship, which is returning this year (September 15-17) after a one-year break, again caused by “financial issues”.
Hosting the event costs around €1 million, Pinheiro said, which is acceptable considering the impact it has in attracting tourists and motorcycling fans from around the world.
“We are expecting thousands of people and so far, four months away from the race, everything is going very well and we are satisfied with the ticket sales,” he added.
Tourism bosses back F1 bid
Meantime, the Algarve’s tourism board (RTA) says it is “available to support and promote” a Formula 1 race in the region in “any way” it can.
“If (the bid) is supported by the government, Portimão council and other partners, we will do anything we can to help,” Algarve tourism boss Desidério Silva told Jornal de Negócios.