Qatar GP: Everything you need to know about the latest Formula 1 race

Formula 1 will break new ground in the upcoming race weekend (November 19-21), with the Qatar GP set to be run for the first time ever.

The Losail International Circuit, home to the Qatar GP 2021. (Image: Twitter/@qatarliving)

Formula 1 will be heading to Qatar this race week (November 19-21) for the first-ever Qatar GP, and the final race of a triple-header that began in Mexico then headed to Brazil.

There is plenty of spotlight on the venue. Not only will it host Round 20 of what has been a tight championship, it’s also a new venue. Given the nature of the championship battles, it will be interesting to see how drivers cope with the track.

The Qatar GP also sees the beginning of F1’s Middle East leg – and the final three races of the season. After this, F1 will head to another first-time venue – Saudi Arabia, before the season-ender in Abu Dhabi.

But for now, the focus will be on Qatar. So what do we know about about the Losail International Circuit and what about it will pose challenges to the drivers and teams?

Here is SportsLumo’s explainer on the venue that is set to host the latest F1 race.

Losail International Circuit – an overview

The Losail International Circuit is a purpose-built race track located 22 miles north of Qatar’s capital city Doha. The track was first built in 2004 and has seen plenty of racing action take place.

The circuit has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar since its inception. Besides that, the track has also hosted touring car races, speedcar, motocross and superbike races too.

Interestingly, the circuit also hosted two rounds of the GP2 Asia series. The winners in both rounds would be familiar names to F1 fans.

The first race was won by current Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenburg, with the second being won by none other than Sergio Perez.

The track as it is of an interesting layout. It features 16 turns and is nearly 5.4 km in length. The main straight going into Turn 1 is over a kilometre long and will have the race’s only DRS zone.

The right-handed Turn 1 will also provide drivers with the best chance to overtake. The middle portion of the track features a number of slow and medium corners.

The most challenging part of the track, however, will be the high-speed corner sequence from Turns 12-14. The sequence is similar to Turn 8 at Istanbul Park, the home of the Turkish GP.

However, the corners all being right-handers makes it the opposite of that turn in Turkey, which runs left-handed. A small straight thereafter followed by another right-hander brings drivers back to the main straight.

Potential challenges for drivers at Qatar GP

Aside from this being a new track for most drivers, the biggest challenge will be the tyre strategy. The sheer number of corners in quick succession will take a lot out of the tyres.

Therefore, teams will have to be mindful over which tyres will be employed to start the race. At this point, it seems likely most teams will start on the mediums.

Given that tyre degredation will likely be above average, any chances of racers using a one-stop seems out of the question.

The track has also not been resurfaced since 2004, meaning it is worn and the coarse aggregate has now been exposed. This means both levels of abrasiveness and grip will be good for drivers.

Mercedes or Red Bull – who will enjoy this track more?

Ah, the million dollar question. One of the reasons this year’s title race has been so tight is due to Mercedes and Red Bull’s advantage constantly changing on different tracks.

On first inspection, this track might just favour the Red Bull’s a little bit more. The sheer number of slow and medium corners in the middle sectors suits their cars far better.

However, Mercedes will be licking their lips at the sight of that main straight. And given that is the only part of the track with DRS, they will back their superior straightline speed to put up a fight.

It must be noted, however, that answering questions over teams’ suitability is a bit of a gamble right now.

Mercedes were expected to dominate at the Circuit of the Americas for the United States GP, but Red Bull came away with an easy win on raceday.

Similarly, Red Bull were expected to dominate at Interlagos, where they had trounced the Silver Arrows in 2019. But it was Mercedes who were quicker all weekend.

Therefore, it is safe to wait until Free Practice 1 to make any judgements over which team are likely to have the better weekend!

Future of Qatar GP

The Losail International Circuit will host the Qatar leg of the F1 calendar this year. However, the race won’t be taking place next year. The reason? Qatar will be gearing up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the end of the year.

However, that doesn’t mean Qatar is a one-and-done for 2021 itself. Formula 1 has signed a 10-year race contract with Qatar that comes into effect from 2023 onwards.

That being said, the venue for the races from then onwards has not been set in stone. It could be Losail, or it could be a whole new venue entirely.

Sportslumo Desk

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