Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to Qatar in 2021 at the Lusail Circuit, near the capital Doha. F1 returned in 2023 and will continue to race in Qatar until at least 2031.
- The 2024 Qatar Grand Prix will take place from November 29 to December 1
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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 2021 that Lusail 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.
Lusail 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. Lusail has since become a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar, and hosted the series’ first ever night race in 2008.
Only Perez & Mazepin Had Previously Raced At Lusail
While Lusail Circuit is more accustomed to hosting motorcycle racing, it had hosted occasional car racing prior to joining the Formula 1 calendar. 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 2021 Formula 1 grid with past experience at Lusail Circuit ahead of the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.
The Mexican raced at Lusail 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 Lusail was won by Perez’s future Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. The German racer 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 Lusail 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 manoeuvre. Challenging corners – especially the high speed complex between Turns 12 and 14 – tested the drivers.
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 years.
F1’s return in 2023
Formula 1 returned to Lusail Circuit for the second running of the Qatar Grand Prix on October 6-8, 2023. It was absent from the 2022 calendar due to the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in the closing months of 2022.
Between the 2021 and 2023 races, Lusail Circuit underwent major renovations. Work included the construction of a new pit and paddock complex, while circuit capacity was increased to 52,000. Weekend attendance at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix grew by 40,000 from the inaugural race’s figure, to 120,000.
The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix was notable for Max Verstappen’s third title win. The Dutchman secured the honours during the Saturday Sprint race, becoming the first driver in almost 40 years not to win the title on a Sunday. The Sprint event also saw Oscar Piastri claim his maiden win in Formula 1.
The weekend was also notable for extremely hot conditions, which pushed the drivers to the limit – so much so that several drivers fell ill during and after the race. Tyres were also a talking point over the 2023 race weekend, with race stint lengths mandated over safety concerns.
The Future of Racing in Qatar
Race promoters have signed a long-term ten-year deal, which sees the Qatar Grand Prix become a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar from 2023 until at least 2031.
The Qatar Grand Prix could move away from Lusail Circuit in the near future. While the track underwent upgrades ahead of the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix, there are plans for a new purpose-built venue elsewhere in Qatar. A street race in capital city Doha has also been mooted as a potential destination for the race in the coming years.
Qatar Grand Prix: Fast Facts
- The main straight at Lusail Circuit is just over a kilometre long.
- After F1 raced in Qatar for the first time in 2021, the sport moved to Saudi Arabia for the first race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. It was the first time that there were two successive races at new venues since the 1970 German and Austrian Grands Prix.
- Over 500km of wiring helps to keep Lusail 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 Lusail Circuit. Poor weather conditions saw the race delayed by one day, taking place on a Monday!
- McLaren recorded their 500th podium finish over the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix. Ferrari were the only team to achieve the feat before McLaren did so.
- The FIFA World Cup took place in Qatar in November-December 2022. To avoid the intense summer heat, it was the first time that the World Cup took place in a month other than May, June or July.
- For a while, Lusail 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.
- Max Verstappen’s title win in 2023 saw Qatar become the 22nd different country in which the Drivers’ Championship had been decided.
Qatar Grand Prix Facts
|Race first held
|5.380km (16 turns)
|306.660 km (57 laps)
|1:23.196, Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 2021
|1st Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:27:39.168
|2nd Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +4.833s
|3rd Lando Norris (McLaren) +5.969s