Estoril F1 Grand Prix back on track?

By Brendan de Beer, in Sport · 14-11-2013 14:29:00 · 0 Comments
Estoril F1 Grand Prix back on track?

Steeped in history, such as when Nikki Lauda claimed his third and final Formula 1 world driver’s championship in 1984, or in 1993 when Michael Schumacher secured his only win of the season in his Benetton Ford, the Autodrómo Fernanda Pires da Silva in Estoril learned this week it had joined a restricted list of circuits deemed capable of hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix race.

Following a visit in August by the chief circuit inspector of the world governing body of motorsport, the Estoril Circuit was this week officially notified that it had been handed a Grade 1 licence.
This certification now allows it to host Formula 1 Grand Prix races if it were to launch a bid to do so.
The last Grand Prix staged at the venue was in 1996 when Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, driving a Williams-Renault, won the race after an audacious overtaking manoeuvre on Michael Schumacher, which he executed to perfection on the final turn of the race.
The door permitting a theoretical return to the good old days was opened when Charlie Withing, Chief Inspector at the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) gave the circuit a glowing recommendation following a visit on 7 August: “The general state of the track is very good and I have no hesitation in recommending that a Grade 1 licence be issued.”
The licence will be valid until the summer of 2016, Parpública, the state-run holding management company which owns the track, said earlier this week.
The Estoril Circuit has, since 2000, held a Grade 2+1T licence, which placed it in the third tier of FIA homologised circuits. But with this upgrade by two levels, Estoril is now the only circuit in the country to hold this maximum rating. The licence held by the Algarve circuit in Portimão (which expires in 2015) places it in the third tier which, at best, only allows it to host testing and practice sessions and less prominent events on the international motorsport calendar.
While talk of hosting a race at the track, located at the bottom of the Sintra mountain range, might be considered premature, the expansion of the Formula 1 World Championship calendar in 2014 to 22 races from the current 19 could mean that the FIA may in future consider staging more races in Europe.

Political and social unrest in the Middle East, plus funding problems at many of the other tracks, could also result in Estoril being called upon to host an impromptu Grand Prix, and at a reduced rate.
Reacting to the news, the Portuguese Automobile and Karting Federation (FPAK) said it would now work intensively on having Estoril included on Formula 1’s testing calendar for next season.
Testing usually takes place from late December to early March, with the Catalunya circuit (Barcelona) favoured by the FIA and teams due to the mild and relatively sunny weather.
FPAK President Manuel Mello Breyner said: “In the very least we want testing to take place here.”
He did however question whether it would be plausible to contemplate aiming one step higher by looking to host a Grand Prix at the circuit given the current economic climate.
“Could it be that Portugal is right now willing to pay the price of staging a Formula 1 Grand Prix?”, he questioned, making the obvious point that organising these events “costs of a lot of money.”
He also expressed concern over the dwindling number of races in Europe not boding well for Estoril in the long-term. In 2014, only seven of the 22 scheduled races will take place on the continent.
But Manuel Mello Breyner remained confident that Lisbon residents would not have to wait too long to hear the adrenalin-racing roar of Formula 1 cars driven by the likes of Vettel, Hamilton, Alsono and co.
“More testing is inevitable and with our winter weather, we will be in a strong position to bring teams over to Estoril.”
Cascais Mayor Carlos Carreiras was similarly also pleased with the news, saying he was “extremely satisfied” with the decelopment.
However, he called for temperance and said he was not convinced that Portugal could afford to host an event of this magnitude given its current financial woes.


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