Portugal takes vacant May 2 slot on F1 calendar

Formula One is planning a record 23 races this year, with the season starting on March 28 in Bahrain.

Formula One is planning a record 23 races this year, with the season starting on March 28 in Bahrain.   -  REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE/ REUTERS

Portugal will fill a slot left vacant by Vietnam and be the third race of the Formula One season on May 2, the sport confirmed on Friday.

The race will again be held at the Algarve circuit near Portimao that made its debut last October on a calendar reduced to 17 races as a result of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That was the first Portuguese Grand Prix in 25 years.

READ| Azerbaijan Grand Prix to go ahead without spectators

Formula One is planning a record 23 races this year, with the season starting on March 28 in Bahrain.

"We want to thank the promoter and the Portuguese Government for their hard work and dedication in getting us to this point," said Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali in a statement.

"We are confident and excited about our 2021 season, having shown last year that we could deliver 17 races safely and bring our millions of fans thrilling racing at a difficult time.

"We hope to welcome fans to Portimao again this season in a safe way and are working with the promoter on the details of that plan."

Last year's Portuguese race weekend was attended by 27,000 spectators.

Allowing so many fans to congregate at last year’s event amid the pandemic prompted an outcry in Portugal, and the Portuguese government is wary of easing the country's current lockdown after it recently spent several weeks as the world’s worst-hit nation by size of population.

At the same time, Portuguese authorities are keen to bring back tourists, especially to the Algarve’s beaches, this summer.

"Holding major events in our country is very important for the image and international promotion of Portugal as a tourist destination," Rita Marques, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, said. "So it is with great interest that we see the return of Formula 1 to the Algarve in 2021."

Portugal’s lockdown is expected to last until at least after the Easter weekend – about a month before the F1 race - then gradually eased.

- AP