After 24 years without a race in Portugal, the Formula 1 competition returns to Lusitanian lands on the Algarve track of the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, in Portimão, between 23 and 25 October.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of tickets has been reduced. Around 95,000 tickets could be sold for the event under normal circumstances but the pandemic demanded that a maximum of 35,000 tickets be sold.
On 7 October, Standvirtual hosted a Webinar focused on the impact that the return of Formula 1 would have in Portugal. Nuno Castel-Branco was the moderator of the conversation with the presence of Isilda Gomes, Mayor of Portimão, Paulo Pinheiro, CEO of the Autódromo Internacional de Portimão and Pedro Matos Chaves, former Formula 1 driver.
During the Webinar, which was broadcast live through the YouTube platform, subjects such as the economic impact of the event, the characteristics of the circuit and the safety measures that the pandemic implied were discussed.
The Mayor of Portimão showed confidence in the reception of the event. After so many months of the crisis, according to the mayor, it will be difficult to cover the economic deficit caused by the pandemic with the reception of Formula 1 and MotoGP events alone. Even though “August was reasonable and September was good”, companies will profit a lot from the event. Isilda Gomes goes further and states that the restaurants that usually close in October will remain open, as well as the hotels in the Algarve, which are full during the week of the event.
Paulo Pinheiro calls for safety rules to be observed by those in attendance, as this is the only way to guarantee that the event can return to Portugal. Masks and social distancing measures are already a reality all over the world, so these same rules will have to be followed at the entrance of the event, as well as in the stands area. When asked by one of the viewers of the webinar about ticket sales, the director of the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. Paulo Pinheiro reinforces saying that “the success of Formula 1 in Portugal depends on people.”
Isilda Gomes said that the municipality of Portimão will be ready to “live Formula 1” and that the municipality will have to maintain a good image, starting from the cleaning of city spaces to meetings with businessmen in the hotel sector. The municipality is also cooperating with security authorities. The mayor says that road rehabilitation works and the creation of easy access to the Autodrome entrances and exits have been carried out. And although it is not guaranteed “that everything goes 100 percent as planned”, Isilda Gomes is confident that everything can go well during the event.
The former driver, Pedro Matos Chaves, praised the organising teams of Portugal, regarding this type of events. According to the former driver, foreigners are always happily surprised when visiting Portugal and he is hopeful that Portugal will organise a great event. As someone who has already driven on the track at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Pedro Matos Chaves, said that the track is challenging and “fun.”
At the end of the meeting, Isilda Gomes highlighted that the event was supported by the Prime Minister, António Costa and that the event cannot be seen as a regional achievement, but instead as a national one, since the race will contribute to “the increase of the national GDP”. As the Algarve is a region that thrives on tourism, the “capital injection” that the event will bring will boost the Algarve region, with “the whole Algarve feeling and experiencing Formula 1.”
The Mayor of Portimão says that the results of the project can only be quantified in the future, using a company hired by the municipality. Isilda Gomes hopes that Formula 1 and MotoGP events will bring more people to the Algarve in the future, and that the images shared in the press will give more visibility to the region and the country as a whole for prospective visitors in the future.
The organisation hopes that the Formula 1 race will be able to return to Portugal in the coming years and to help this there is a team of 150 people, working so that in 2020 Portugal will organise one of the best events related to the sport.