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  • Reese Mautone

Qatar Grand Prix Preview

Formula 1 embarks on a new journey this weekend as the sport calls Qatar home for the very first time in its history.


Welcome to the 20th round of the 2021 season...

The final race of the last triple-header this season sees the sport touchdown in Doha, Qatar for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix. As with all first times, the teams are starting on the back foot with limited relevant data and a lack of knowledge in regards to the impacts of the tracks physical conditions on their cars. All this in conjunction with an array of tight battles throughout the field give the Losail International Circuit a chance to provide an unforgettable spectacle for fans all around the world and at the circuit.


Despite Formula 1 never having raced at the Losail International Circuit, the track is no stranger to action, having hosted Moto GP since 2004, explaining why the track's design favours motorcycle racing as opposed to F1's 4-wheelers. Nonetheless, the track does have some experience in the motorsports smaller categories. In 2006, the Losail International Circuit entertained the short-lived GP Masters debut with 1992 Championship winner Nigel Mansell proving he still had what it takes to bring home P1. More recently, the GP2 Asia series raced at the circuit in 2009 with former F1 driver Nico Hülkenberg winning, and the lap record of 1:39.699 recorded by Davide Rigon, however, this time fails to represent the speed and agility the modern-day F1 car will bring.


The Losail International Circuit itself is 5.38km long with 16 turns primarily made up of medium and high-speed corners. Sunday's race will span across 57 laps under the floodlights for this twilight race starting 5:00pm local time, with a total race distance of 306.66km to the checkered flag. The main straight equates to over 1km of the circuit's total length and will become the solo DRS zone for the Qatar Grand Prix with the detection zone sitting just before Turn 16, making for great overtaking opportunities and high-speed battles.


The circuit has not been resurfaced since 2004, leaving it highly abrasive - the primary cause of predicted tyre degradation this weekend. Despite organisers' best efforts to prevent displaced sand from impacting the track with artificial grass guards, the neighbouring desert in combination with no support races could affect grip levels and see drastic track evolution across each session this weekend. Taking a proactive approach, Pirelli has assigned this weekend's tyres as the three hardest compounds: the C1, C2 and C3. Solely based on grip level predictions, average temperatures of 29°C and abrasive track surfacing, the forecasted strategy looks to be a 2-stop race, however, knowing which types react best in these conditions will is yet to be confirmed.


As much as free practice sessions will be about gathering data from a team perspective, drivers will be using them to acquaint themselves with the new track, a task in which the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have not had to do for some years now. This new challenge could lead to a bunching up of the backmarkers

and closer midfield battles, or could highlight who is able to adapt quicker than the rest of the field.


In an interview earlier this week, Haas' Mick Schumacher spoke on racing at a completely new track, saying that he sees it as a positive, as opposed to a negative, with everyone starting on a level playing field in terms of knowledge.

"I don’t know what to expect as I haven’t been there so it’s brand-new for everybody, and I hope it will bring us closer to the top teams and at least we’ll be able to fight on track with others.”

Fans are hoping that the Losail International Circuit delivers an exciting race this weekend as it will take its place permanently on the calendar from 2023 onwards as a part of a 10-year deal.

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