“We are working hard to guarantee Formula 1 (F1) for Portugal. It is a complex, complicated and difficult process. Right now, we are trying to take all the necessary steps and we think that by the middle of next week the situation must be resolved”, Paulo Pinheiro told Lusa.
The official reveals that in the 24H Endurance held on 12, 13 and 14 June, it was possible to prove that "all the procedures that they intend to demonstrate to F1 are likely to be implemented at the Autodrome and went well, with everyone respecting the rules".
Paulo Pinheiro pointed out that the return of F1 would be “the biggest event that Portugal has had since Euro2004", since it is the one that has “more media coverage and economic impact worldwide” in all its surroundings and would be “a historic landmark".
However, he warned that the logistics and organisation of a race “of this dimension” involves costs “that can hardly be borne only by the circuit”.
In an event of this magnitude, security "is important", he stressed, that is why "all participants are tested daily" and any case that occurs "can be isolated quickly". The teams work on each car “with an independent team”, with “a very large sectioning that prevents the spread”.
In relation to the public, the intention is to go from “30 to 60 percent of the circuit's capacity, respecting the rules of distance and access to the benches”, as in a restaurant, said Paulo Pinheiro, who was available to “adapt the procedures that the Directorate-General for Health understands”, arguing that “it is essential that the event has a public, within the limit that is acceptable”.
A positive decision on the part of the organisation implies a resurfacing of the track, so that it is “immaculate for the race”, but that can also serve so that the circuit “can continue to be an alternative for F1”, he said.
After being closed “between April and mid-June” due to the covid-19 pandemic, the AIA has already started to receive training from “some MotoGP riders”, and is gradually returning to its normal activity, but far from “the usual occupation”. By the end of the year, a “nice” occupancy rate is expected, but “nothing compared” to what was previously there, said the administrator.
The Algarve circuit usually registers, between September and mid-December, "100 percent occupancy", but this year "an effort to reach 70 percent" was necessary, capturing different events.
The appearance of an outbreak of covid-19 in the last few days in Lagos, a few kilometres from the AIA, does not disturb Paulo Pinheiro, in relation to the possible arrival of F1 in late September or October, but he hopes it will serve as a warning.
“We have to reflect on our posture and attitude and have a correction in the rules for the use of the mask and in the social distance in the day-to-day. After a three-month break, it costs us that due to the irresponsibility of some, we have to go through a similar situation", he defended.
The person in charge of the AIA, stressed that “if Portugal is today in a situation to receive F1” it was because “the Portuguese behaved wonderfully” in that period, “doing much more than was required” and therefore experiencing “success in combating covid”.
"It is to resume this stance, but with rules and respect for everyone", he concludes.
The start of the F1 World Championship was scheduled for 15 March, in Australia, but the race was cancelled due to covid-19. The competition kicks off on 5 July with eight races in Europe, between July and September, expecting the organisation to disclose in the coming weeks the extended calendar, which should have a total of 15 to 18 races by December.
For the time being, the first races will not have an audience on the stands, but the hope remains that in the coming months the situation will allow fans to return.