Portimao in 'negotiations' for GP, Hockenheim wants decision

Blancpain Sprint Series, Rd 5, Portimao, Portugal
ยฉ XPB 

The Portuguese circuit of Portimao is the latest candidate for consideration to hold a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2020, it's emerged.

Organisers at the facility confirmed this weekend that they are in "strong negotiations" to hold a race or doubleheader event in the autumn, as the sport battles to rebuild a calendar badly disrupted by coronavirus.

Currently there are just eight confirmed races on this season's schedule, all in Europe. F1 announced on Friday that postponed races in Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japan have now been formally abandoned for 2020, adding to previous cancellations for Australia, Monaco, the Netherlands and France.

F1 bosses have been looking at venues including Imola and Mugello as possible replacements for the lost races, and now Portimao is the latest name on the list under consideration.

โ€œWe are in contact with FOM and in strong negotiations,โ€ a spokesperson from the circuit at Portimao told Motorsport.com. "It is a possibility.

โ€œFor now nothing is confirmed," the spokesperson added. "But we know that there is a lot of willingness among the teams that Portugal be chosen for the calendar.

"We are working very hard and doing everything we can to have the F1 in our race track," the statement added. "Any decision only will be made in July.

โ€œWe are the option that everyone wants - from the location, the track, the large facilities that allow greater safety distance, the climate, the hotels and the reduced impact in the country of COVID-19."

It's believed that the most likely dates for racing at Portimao are September 27 or October 4 with a possible back-to-back doubleheader, although the former weekend is currently still the official date for the Russian GP in Sochi.

If the race happens, it will be the first time that F1 will have headed to the Algarve. Formula 1 has raced in Portugal before, initially at Boavista and Monsanto but thereafter at Estoril between 1984 and 1996.

The 4.6km Portimao track opened in 2008 and holds the required FIA Grade 1 certification. It was used for testing as recently as 2009, with Lewis Hamilton the only driver currently on the F1 grid to have taken part at the time. However others such as Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez have raced there in different categories.

F1 director of motorsports Ross Brawn said previously that the sport was looking at "a number of good European tracks where we could add another one or two races."

As well as Mugello and Imola, Hockenheim had been mentioned in connection of stepping in for Silverstone in the event that the UK's new quarantine for arrivals prevented races being held there.

With that obstacle now removed and the British rounds green-lit, Hockenheim is pushing to know whether it's still in with a shot for a place on the revamped 2020 calendar.

โ€œWe cannot keep our calendar on standby for several weeks waiting for a date for the GP," Hockenheim joint CEOs Jorn Teske and Jochen Nerpel told German agency Sid this week.

Teske and Nerpel stated that they would be โ€œvery happy to accept a feasible requestโ€ to hold a 2020 German Grand Prix but pointed out that adding more races to this year's calendar "currently revolves only around speculation."

The push to see the German GP back on this year's calendar comes in the wake of the announcement that Sebastian Vettel is to leave Ferrari - and that this could be his final season in F1 altogether.

However Hockenheim is almost certain to have to operate a 'closed doors' protocol due to anti-coronavirus measures, meaning that if it is his home race swansong then it will be played out before empty grandstands.

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