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Race Facts – Qatar Grand Prix

Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to Qatar in 2021 at the Losail International Circuit, near the capital Doha. The 2021 Qatar Grand Prix took place on November 19-21.

Circuit images © F1Destinations

Following the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix for a second successive year, Formula 1 was left with a hole in its 2021 schedule. Following months of speculation, it was finally confirmed in September that Losail International Circuit would fill the gap. The Qatar Grand Prix formed the last stage of the final triple header of the year, with races in Mexico and Brazil having taken place on the two preceding weekends.

Losail International Circuit is located around 30km north of Doha. The 5.4km layout runs clockwise and features sixteen turns. It was built in under a year, with work carried out by a workforce of over 1,000 people. Built at a cost of $58 million, the circuit opened in 2004 and hosted a round of the MotoGP season. Losail has since become a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar, and hosted the series’ first ever night race in 2008.

Only Perez and Mazepin had raced here before

While Losail International Circuit is more accustomed to hosting motorcycle racing, it has hosted car racing in the past. Most notably, the GP2 Asia championship visited the circuit as part of its 2008-2009 schedule. Sergio Perez was one of only two drivers on the Formula 1 grid with past experience at Losail International Circuit ahead of the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix. 

The Mexican raced at Losail as part of GP2 Asia and won the second race of the weekend in 2009. Nikita Mazepin was the other driver with past racing experience at the circuit, having competed here in the MRF Challenge in 2014. 

The other race of the 2009 GP2 Asia weekend at Losail was won by Perez’s future Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. The German ex-F1 driver held the record for the fastest ever lap at the track, having taken pole position for the GP2 Asia feature race in 2009 with a lap time of 1:35.741. Lewis Hamilton broke that record by some 13 seconds in qualifying for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix.

Formula 1 legends have raced at Losail International Circuit in the short-lived Grand Prix Masters championship. 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell took victory when the series visited Qatar in April 2006.

 

What happened at the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?

In many ways, the Qatar Grand Prix could not have joined the F1 calendar at a better time. Qatar hosted the third to last race weekend of the 22-round 2021 F1 season. With the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen still very much undecided, it was all to play for under the lights. Hamilton won the race, closing to within just eight points of Verstappen’s championship lead.

The Qatar Grand Prix was the third full night race to join the Formula 1 calendar, after the Singapore and Bahrain Grands Prix, the latter of which switched to being a floodlit race in 2014.

The single DRS zone was located on the kilometre long main straight – so Turn 1 was the best place to make an overtaking. Challenging corners – especially the high speed complex between Turns 12 and 14 – tested the drivers, while tyre wear was a decisive factor on this demanding layout. No fewer than four drivers suffered tyre failures over the course of the race. A successful one-stopper was Fernando Alonso, who recorded his first podium finish in over seven year. 

The future of racing in Qatar

The 2021 Qatar Grand Prix may be the only Formula 1 race which will take place at Losail International Circuit – but it won’t be the only race ever held in Qatar. The country will host the FIFA World Cup in the closing months of 2022, so will not appear on next year’s F1 schedule. However, race promoters have signed a long-term ten-year deal for the Qatar Grand Prix to become a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar from 2023.

It has not yet been announced where the Qatar Grand Prix will take place from 2023 onwards. It is believed that Losail International Circuit will need to undergo upgrades if it is to become a permanent Formula 1 venue. While there may be plans for a new purpose-built venue elsewhere in Qatar, a likely option for 2023 is a street race in capital city Doha.

Qatar Grand Prix: Fast Facts

  • The main straight at Losail International Circuit is just over a kilometre long.
  • After F1 has raced in Qatar, the sport will move to Saudi Arabia for a race at another new venue. It’s the first time that there have been two successive races at new venues since the 1970 German and Austrian Grands Prix.
  • Over 500km of wiring helps to keep the circuit illuminated at night.
  • Qatar gets only 9 days worth of rain in a year – but it managed to cause havoc with the 2009 MotoGP race at Losail International Circuit. Poor weather conditions saw the race delayed by one day, taking place on a Monday!
  • The FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar in November-December 2022. To avoid the intense summer heat, this will be the first time that the World Cup has taken place in a month other than May, June or July.
  • For a while, Losail International Circuit was the largest lit sporting venue in the world. Its title was taken by Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi when it opened in 2009.

Qatar Grand Prix Facts

Circuit NameLosail International Circuit
Race first held 2021
Track Length5.380km (16 turns)
Race Distance306.660 km (57 laps)
Lap Record1:23.196, Lewis Hamilton (Red Bull), 2021
2021 Result1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:24:28.471
2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +25.743s
3rd Fernando Alonso (Alpine) ++59.457s

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