2021 F1 Qatar Grand Prix: A new desert race
Qatar is set to host its first Formula One grand prix this weekend. The race fills in for the canceled Australian Grand Prix but starting from 2023, Qatar will be a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar.
The race is taking place at Losail International Circuit, located on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital city of Doha. The track stretches 3.43 miles and normally plays host to motorcycle races, including a round of MotoGP. As a result, it features a fast and flowing nature, with the focus very much on medium and high-speed corners.
There are 16 corners in total (10 right-handers and six left-handers) and the main straight is almost a fifth of a lap, with the end of this straight being the only DRS zone. The slowest corner on the track is Turn 6, at around 60 mph, with the fastest being Turn 13, taken at 160 mph.
The Losail International Circuit was opened in 2004, and its track surface dates back to that date. The original asphalt has become quite abrasive over time, which will accentuate tire wear and degradation. This, coupled with the venue being new for F1, has led Pirelli to nominate its three hardest compounds: the C1 has been chosen as the P Zero White hard, the C2 as the P Zero Yellow medium and C3 as the P Zero Red soft.
Despite the presence of strategically-placed artificial grass around the circuit to keep away the sand from the desert, the asphalt could still become very dusty and as a result lower grip levels. The Qatar Grand Prix is also a night race. This means that the evolution of track temperature over the course of the race should be quite different compared to a regular afternoon race, with the potential for a big drop-off as the race goes on. Looking at the forecast, we should be in for fine weather throughout the weekend.
Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen leads the 2021 Drivers' Championship with 332.5 points. Mercedes-Benz AMG's Lewis Hamilton is second with 318.5 points and fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is third with 203 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 521.5 points, versus the 510.5 of Red Bull and 287.5 of Ferrari.