In 2020, 36-year-old Briton Lewis Hamilton surpassed the world record hitherto held by Germany's Michael Schumacher by tallying 92 wins. The feat took place in the Algarve, Portugal, at the debut of the Portimão circuit. "It doesn't feel real," reacted the now seven-time world champion. "One moment you are at home watching Michael win all the championships, and the next you are on the track, racing with him. Suddenly you're replacing him and then you're matching his records. It's like I'm constantly wondering about when I'm going to wake up from this dream."
Formula One returned to Portugal last October for the first time in 25 years and it couldn't have gone better. The moment was historic for the driver who currently represents the Mercedes team, but also for the Portuguese Grand Prix, which was the second most watched of last season and was highly praised. First of all, by Hamilton himself, who continues to have in Ayrton Senna (1960-1994) his greatest idol (he equalled him in pole position numbers in 2017... and cried) . "I grew up watching the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril. So it was very good to come back to Portugal to compete," he confessed. Remember that it was precisely at this circuit, in 1985, that the Brazilian driver achieved, under a huge storm, the first major victory of his career. And if Portugal is a talisman for drivers of this calibre, Hamilton has no hesitation in wishing: "I would like the Algarve circuit to be a permanent part of the Formula 1 World Championship calendar".
For now, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve will once again host the Portuguese Grand Prix on May 2, in what will be the third race of the season in the 2021 World Championship, after Bahrain in the Middle East and Imola in Italy. It is not a surprise, because the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had already shown willingness in this return. "We hope that we can safely see the fans in Portimão again. We are working with the promoter on the details of this plan," said Italian Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, in statements reproduced by the official website. Five months ago there were no fewer than 27,000 people following the race.
The possibility of the Algarve Autodrome reappearing on the calendar began to be talked about as early as January, when it was realised that the Australian Grand Prix would be postponed and the Chinese round cancelled, due to the increase in the number of covid-19 cases and the mandatory 14-day quarantine required of all foreign visitors. With the cancellations of Argentina and the United States, it became an obvious choice. Portugal is one of the best countries in the world to control the third wave of the pandemic, the number of new infections is now very low, so the country already leads the ranking of destinations chosen by tourists and travellers for the summer of 2021. In addition, Portugal is expected to lift travel restrictions later in May. "We are very focused on reopening tourism in a sustainable way and aligned with what will be the requirements of the European Green Pass for travel," recently announced the Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques.
Highlights of the 2021 Formula One World Cup
Those who love Formula One know that this year there are at least four reasons not to miss any round until it is known whether Lewis Hamilton wins his eighth world championship title: to watch the performance of German driver Sebastian Vettel, four times Formula One world champion, who has just swapped the Ferrari team for Aston Martin; to follow closely the performance of Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr, who replaces Vettel at Ferrari; not to miss the return of two-time champion Fernando Alonso again for Renault and, not least, to witness the first season of Mick Schumacher, son of Michael Schumacher. The 22-year-old will compete for Haas.
Lewis Hamilton, who is one small step away from distancing himself from any other driver in Formula 1 history, arrives in Portugal at the top of the championship, but only one point ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen: it is 44 against 43 points. But it will not be an exaggeration to think that Portimão brings him luck. "It's a fantastic track to drive on. There are areas where you can't see the exits, the ups and downs, and at certain times you just see the sky. It's an amazing combination of corners, with the bonus of being able to follow and overtake other cars. The Austin circuit is one of my favourites, but Portugal has now joined the top," said the Knight of the Order of the British Empire since last year.
And then there's the Algarve, which is, in itself, a whole programme. If you are in Portimão between 30th April and 2nd May, don't leave without understanding here why so many people make it their life's goal to buy a house in the Algarve, or discover here which Algarve beach is among the 25 best beaches in the world, or find out here what makes the Algarve the best golfing destination in Europe.