Portugal could be in-line for a return to the Formula 1 schedule in the not-too distant future, it has been suggested – but the prospects for the German Grand Prix appear to be somewhat less rosy.
The Portuguese Grand Prix initially ran on-and-off from 1951 to 1966, and then on a permanent basis at Estoril from 1984 to 1996, but it fell off the calendar when the Cascais venue failed to keep pace in terms of its facilities and infrastructure, despite its reputation as an excellent testing circuit.
Now, however, specialist website grandprix.com
reports that the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone is interested in reviving the race, only this time around the new, state-of-the-art Portimao track in the Algarve, where a number of teams tested last month and with which they are said to have been greatly impressed.
Moreover, the circuit is just 30 miles from an international airport with direct motorway access, and there are more than a thousand hotels in the surrounding area. With good weather for much of the year, a race would also be able to be held pretty much any time during the season. The only question mark, grandprix.com
warns, will be over money – and whether Portugal can afford to pay as much for the privilege of welcoming the top flight as do new venues in the Middle and Far East.
Ecclestone has been keen in recent years to take F1 to more and more non-European countries, with Bahrain, Malaysia, Singapore and China all having joined the grid, Abu Dhabi set to host the 2009 finale in November and India and South Korea also due to be added to the schedule over the next couple of years.
Turkey and Valencia have been the only new European additions over the past decade, but it is believed that the sport's ringmaster is wary of not wishing to alienate the teams, who do not want to lose too many European grands prix.
With France having disappeared off the calendar, doubts over the future of Britain's slot following the much-debated move to Donington Park from 2010 and suggestions Hockenheim will not be able to hold the German Grand Prix again, that is a very real danger. What's more, with the Nürburgring unable to finance the event more often than every other year, should Ecclestone insist upon a yearly contract, then Germany too may be set for the chop.