F1 confirms Qatar GP on 2021 calendar as part of long-term deal

Formula 1 has confirmed the Qatar Grand Prix will fill the vacant slot on the 2021 race calendar in November, as part of a triple-header with Mexico and Brazil.

The night race at Losail International Circuit has been in the planning stages for some months, but the announcement had to wait for the commercial arrangements to be finalised, and will take place on the 19-21 November.

The negotiations led to a long-term deal to run an event in Qatar for 10 years from 2023 to 2032.

There will be no grand prix in 2022 as the country will focus on hosting the FIFA World Cup that will start exactly a year after the first F1 race. The event will then return in 2023 at a yet-to-be-confirmed venue, with a new circuit now in the planning stages.

Qatar becomes F1’s fourth lucrative venue in the Middle East, joining Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. The move reflects F1’s increasing reliance on the region for funding, as well as Qatar’s desire to build on the exposure created by the World Cup.

Losail first emerged as a potential venue as long ago as June after other flyaway races were cancelled amid the ongoing restrictions enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Essentially F1 began to review circuits outside Europe that have an FIA Grade 1 licence and that would potentially be candidates for a race in both logistical and commercial terms.

Opened in 2004, Losail has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP schedule ever since. Lighting was added to the venue in 2007, creating MotoGP’s first night event.

It has only rarely been used for top level car racing. A round of the GP2 Asia championship was held in February 2009, with the two races won by Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, while the NASCAR-based Speedcar series that featured former F1 drivers also visited the same year. Three rounds of the WTCC were also held at the track between 2015 and 2017.

FIA race director Michael Masi and F1’s sporting director Steve Nielsen visited the venue after the Hungarian GP in order to assess what changes would be required to make it suitable for a grand prix.

The list included a revised pit entry and modifications to some kerbs and barriers, as well as new team hospitality buildings in the paddock. That work has been undertaken in recent weeks.

Perez, the only current F1 driver to have raced at Losail, said: “I hardly remember the circuit. I remember that it was very smooth, because it was done for MotoGP. I think it will be a good place.”

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