José Mourinho, João Félix and Jorge Mendes have all backed the Algarve’s bid to be chosen as a venue for a Formula 1 race this season, hoping their popularity in the football world will help the region stand out in the eyes of F1 bosses.
“A country with great athletes deserves to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix,” said the ‘Special One’, currently managing Tottenham Hotspur FC.
João Félix, the wonderkid who Atletico Madrid paid a whopping €126 million for last summer, described the Algarve’s international racetrack in Portimão as the “ideal setting for the return of F1 to Portugal”, while Portugal’s football ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes said the Algarve has “one of the best racetracks in the world” which would be a fitting venue for a F1 race.
The Algarve’s racetrack boss Paulo Pinheiro was delighted to receive support from such “illustrious people” who help promote Portugal abroad and said their “kind words” will strengthen the region’s bid for a spot on the F1 calendar.
“This only gives us more strength to continue working in order to reach our goal,” he added.
Readers may recall that Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsport, has confirmed that bringing at least one race to the Algarve is a “possibility”.
But as Pinheiro admits, the process is “complex, complicated and difficult”.
“At the moment, we are trying to take all the necessary steps and we are expecting to have the situation sorted out by mid-next week,” he told Lusa news agency.
The Parkalgar CEO said that the 24H Endurance competition, held at the racetrack between June 12 and 14, proved that all the procedures needed to be implemented during a F1 race can be successfully implemented at the region’s racetrack.
Said Pinheiro, hosting a F1 race in Portugal would be the “biggest event the country has hosted since Euro 2004” as it would be the event with the “most media attention” and “largest economic impact on a global level”.
Safety will be a priority if the Algarve is successful in its bid. Drivers and their teams will be tested on a daily basis, and any positive case will be isolated quickly, he guaranteed.
Plans are to have 30% to 60% of the racetrack’s stands open to the public, in a bid to ensure enough distance between fans.
As Pinheiro pointed out, “having fans in the stands is essential,” although organisers will ensure their numbers are “acceptable”.
The racetrack, which will be repaved if it is indeed chosen for a F1 race, has been hosting training sessions for some MotoGP pilots, although the number expected for this year is “nothing compared to last year”, Pinheiro stressed.
Between September and mid-December, the racetrack is usually completely booked, while this year additional efforts were needed to reach 70% of its usual occupancy levels.
Commenting on the outbreak of Covid-19 in Lagos due to an illegal party, Pinheiro said he does not believe it will hurt the region’s chances of being selected, hoping it will instead serve as a warning about the need to “wear masks and continue social distancing”.
Nonetheless, he stressed the “magnificent behaviour” that the Portuguese people have shown during the pandemic, saying they did “much more than what was asked of them,” which is why the country has been so successful in its fight against Covid-19.