Earlier this year, Formula One announced that due to the covid-19 situation in the region, the Australian Grand Prix would be cancelled. F1 had said that it was in talks with other venues to host the event in its place and would announce the replacement once it was confirmed. While there has been some speculation around the topic, it is now official that F1 will travel to Qatar. The 2021 Qatar Grand Prix will be held over the weekend of November 19-21.
Currently, F1 is gearing up for the Turkish Grand Prix next weekend following which they will fly across to the Americas. The first of which will see the US Grand Prix in Austin Texas. After a weekend’s rest, F1 will hold a triple-header with the Mexican Grand Prix (Nov 5-7), Brazilian Grand Prix (Nov 12-14) and then travel to the Middle-East the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix the following weekend.
After the race in Qatar, two more rounds will remain in the season with the inaugural Arabian Grand Prix and the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
The race will take place at the purpose-built Losail International Circuit. The track is located on the outskirts of the national capital of Doha. Losail features a 16 turn race track which was built in 2004 and has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar. The track already posses an FIA Grade 1 Licence which made the venue capable of hosting a Formula One event.
While the track surface has not been repaved since it was opened in 2004, cars may not struggle for grip on the well broken in, and abrasive asphalt. However, an FIA inspection was carried out and some minor changes are to be expected. However, The nature and layout of the track mean that tyre degradation is expected to be on the higher side.
The track will have one DRS zone on the main straight which is just over 1 km long. However, the free slowing nature and fast corners on the rest of the track will mean that overtaking may be difficult. Using the DRS into Turn 1 may be the best and only overtaking option. But 2021 has been full of surprises.
Losail also features a triple right-hand apex corner sequence between turns 12-14 similar to Turn 8 left at Turkey, or more similar to turn 10-11 at the Buddh International Circuit in India. Simulations suggest that lap times are expected to be in the range of 1m 28.6s during the race and qualifying times would be around 1m 22.5s with cars driving at an average speed of 237km/h.
Like the track in Bahrain, Losail is equipped to host a night race and it is possible that F1 chooses to go in that direction. A night race would mean cooler temperatures in the mid-20 degrees C making it easier for the cars, drivers and teams. However, we await the final word from F1 if the event will be held under the floodlights.
The 2021 Qatar GP is part of a long term deal with Formula One and the race promoter. It is expected that Losail may have a 10 year run in hosting an F1 event. However as the nation will be busy hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, F1 would only return again in 2023. F1 will continue talks with the promoters of the Qatar GP and issue a final word in the future.
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