Qatar is the first in a series of three night races to end the exciting F1 season of 2021, and the Losail International Circuit, designed for motorcycle racing, will host Formula 1 cars for the first time – we bring you an overview of the track ahead of Qatar’s first GP which will be a permanent fixture in the F1 calendar from 2023.
|Circuit lenght||5380 m|
|Race distance||306.660 km|
|Fastest race lap||–|
2021 QATAR GP TIMETABLE
|1st free practice||Fri 13:30|
|2nd free practice||Fri 17:00|
|3nd free practice||Sat 14:00|
The Losail International Circuit, located near the capital city Doha, was designed for MotoGP racing, and the construction of the track took just over a year and was ready for the first MotoGP race in 2004.
In 2021, the track will host a Formula 1 race for the first time, and from 2023, Qatar has signed a ten-year contract, although it is not yet known on which track the 2023 race will be run.
For the first F1 race in Qatar, Pirelli will bring the three hardest tyre compounds (C1, C2 and C3), which is not surprising considering the characteristics of the 5.38 km long circuit, which consists mostly of medium and fast turns that put tyres under heavy loads.
The asphalt has not changed since 2004 and has meanwhile become very abrasive, which also contributes to high tyre degradation and wear while high speeds corners are reminiscent of Silverstone and Mugello although Losail is a fairly flat track when it comes to altitude changes.
The start-finish straight is just over one kilometer long, which should provide a good opportunity to overtake in the only DRS zone. The track has 16 turns, ten right and six left, which are very close to each other so the tyres do not have much time to cool down.
Although artificial grass has been placed around the track to reduce the deposition of sand from the desert on the track, the asphalt could still be quite dusty, especially ahead of the start of the first free practice which is a problem teams are facing in Bahrain.
A series of three right turns (12, 13 and 14) drivers pass as one long fast turn with a lateral acceleration of more than 5 g making this turn reminiscent of the famous Istanbul Eight, but in the opposite direction.
The race is one of four in the F1 calendar for 2021 to be driven at night alongside Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. This means that the atmospheric conditions will be significantly different in the first and third than in the second training, qualifications and race, which makes it difficult to prepare for the weekend and get the maximum performance out of the tyres.
During the first F1 weekend in Qatar there will be no support racing series which will slow down the process of evolution of the track – the final of the Formula 2 season is scheduled on the last two weekends of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Current Williams F1 driver and future Mercedes driver George Russell compared the track to Mugello because of the predominantly fast corners.
“Mugello has more height changes, Qatar is flat, but in terms of corner configuration and their speed it resembles Mugello,” Russell said.
“There are a lot of medium-fast and fast corners in fourth and fifth gear. There’s just one slow corner, which means it’s going to be really interesting, and then there’s a really long straight.”
“I think it’s going to be hard because there will be a lot of different strategies when it comes to downforce levels that will be used because the straightis long, but you have so many turns where you need downforce.”