Everything you need to know about the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix
Formula 1 will be heading to Qatar for the first time ever this year. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest addition to the calendar…
When is the Qatar Grand Prix?
The race will take place over the weekend of November 19-21, the third event in a triple header that begins with the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix. The Qatar GP will be followed by the first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Where in Qatar is the race taking place?
The inaugural Qatar Grand Prix will take place at the purpose-built Losail International Circuit, 22 miles north of the capital city of Doha on the Arabian peninsula.
The 16-turn track was built in 2004 and is no stranger to high octane racing, having become a permanent fixture on the two-wheeled MotoGP calendar. This year, it’ll host round 20 of the F1 World Championship.
The race is part of a longer-term deal with F1 that will run for 10 years from 2023 (with no race next year as the country is hosting the FIFA World Cup).
Discussions will continue regarding the location for the Grand Prix from 2023, with further details to be provided at a later time.
What’s the track like?
Losail already had an FIA Grade 1 Licence, which meant it was a viable option to host a Grand Prix this year at short notice amid the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.
Governing body the FIA will complete an inspection, but that’s par for the course for circuits joining the F1 calendar, and the required changes are likely to be minimal.
The main straight is a decent length at just over a kilometre and will provide the location of the circuit’s one DRS zone. That means the Turn 1 right-hander will be the best opportunity to overtake.
Tyres will likely be a talking point, as the high percentage of time the cars will spend cornering means teams could experience higher than average tyre degradation.
(Ride onboard for a lap of the track in the video below).
There’s a triple right-hand apex, almost flat high-speed corner sequence (Turns 12 through to 14) which is similar to Turn 8 at Turkey but in the opposite direction and will be particularly challenging on tyres.
The track hasn’t been resurfaced since 2004, so it has worn and exposed the coarse aggregate. That should mean good grip and levels of abrasiveness with regards to tyre wear.
We’ll see cars reaching an average speed of 237km/h in qualifying and 220km/h on race day. In terms of predicted lap time, our simulations suggest 1m 22.5s for qualifying and 1m 28.6s for the race, which will last 57 laps.
Will it be a night race?
It’s a good question – and one which will be answered in the coming weeks.
Losail already has the capability to host a night race, with around 3,600 bulbs across 1,000 structures dotted around the circuit to illuminate the track. At 5.380km, the lit area covers the same amount of ground as 70 full-size football pitches.
If it’s a day race, temperatures will be hot and humid – but as it’s autumn time, conditions will still be significantly cooler than the summer.
Should the race take place at night, ambient temperatures will drop still further to around the mid-20s in degrees Celsius.
Has Qatar hosted any other major sporting events?
Aside from welcoming MotoGP, the Middle Eastern country has hosted motorsport of the four-wheel variety, with 1992 F1 world champion Nigel Mansell taking victory at Losail in the short-lived Grand Prix Masters championship.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s current reserve Nico Hulkenberg took his maiden GP2 Asia victory, in what was only his third start in the championship, at the Qatari venue back in 2009.
Outside motorsport, Qatar has hosted World Championships in athletics, road cycling and gymnastics, before hosting the FIFA Club World Cup as a dry run ahead of the arrival of the FIFA World Cup late next year.