F1: Portugal aims to replace the Chinese Grand Prix

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JUNE 5: flag of Portugal during the UEFA Nations league match between Portugal v Switzerland at the Estadio Jose Alvalade on June 5, 2022 in Lisbon Portugal (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Representatives in Portugal are aiming to be a late replacement for the once-again canceled Chinese Grand Prix.

At the start of December, Formula 1 announced that the Chinese Grand Prix will not be held in 2023. The race was scheduled to return to the F1 calendar for the first time since 2019. However, ‘due to the ongoing difficulties presented by the COVID-19 situation’ the event is once again being pushed into the future. 2023 will mark the fourth straight season China has been omitted from the F1 schedule.

The Chinese Grand Prix was held for 16 consecutive seasons between 2004 and 2019. However, China’s ‘Zero-Covid’ policy and history of lockdowns had made its return impossible in the past few years. Now even with the country beginning to loosen restrictions, and F1’s announcement that it would drop the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for next season, 2023 still was not a reality. Formula 1 also cannot risk any drivers or personnel being forced into 14-day quarantines. So what’s next?

23 Races in 23?

At the moment the calendar next year features 23 Grands Prix. Which obviously has a nice ring to it and works well for marketing purposes. So will the series leave the schedule as is or are they open to a replacement given the sport’s boom in popularity around the world in recent years? Portugal is reportedly making its case to fill in for the Chinese Grand Prix and reprive its short return.

The Portuguese Grand Prix

The Grand Prix in Portugal was originally held in Boavista in 1951 but was not a formal part of the F1 World Championship until 1958. After a few seasons as part of the official schedule, it was not held for three years and returned as a non-sanctioned event for three years before falling off the calendar completely until the 1980s.

In 1984 the Portuguese Grand Prix returned, this time at the Circuito do Estoril. It was a part of the F1 schedule for 13 straight seasons and saw several F1 Champions stand on the top step of its podium – Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, and Jacques Villeneuve.

For another two decades, it would disappear from F1’s travels. Then as F1 restructured the 2020 schedule due to COVID, Portimao took up the mantle of the Portugues Grand Prix for the ’20 and ’21 seasons. Both were won by Lewis Hamilton, but the circuit failed to make it onto the 2022 calendar. At this point, Portugal’s return seems unlikely. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali’s comments have put in doubt that the series would look for a replacement. But in that event, Portimao is ready to rejoin the F1 circus.

Featured Image Credit: David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images