The Formula 1 World Championship recently confirmed that the Losail International Circuit will host the Qatar Grand Prix in the 2021 season, in a calendar that has undergone several adjustments, as the entire world continues to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. While this confirmation came after months of expectations, it was accompanied by a huge announcement confirming how serious Qatar is to be an essential part of the future of the royal class of motorsport.
There were many hopes, and expectations, that life would return to normal in the 2021 season and the restrictions imposed on the whole world, and on the Formula 1 community as well, due to the Covid-19 virus would be lifted. But, perhaps, there is a positive side to everything that is happening around us. The continuing complications of travel to many countries, especially in the Far East region in Australia, China, Singapore and Japan, prompted the Formula 1 administration to make more adjustments to the 2021 season calendar. With the increasing importance of the Middle East, and the ease of travel and shipment of equipment to it, it was only natural to evaluate the possibility of Qatar hosting a Formula One race.
The infrastructure is ready: a first-class circuit, the iconic Losail International Circuit, can host night races under the floodlights. Therefore, the Formula 1 announcement was not surprising that the Qatar Grand Prix will be held next November, and the race will be very exciting because the championship teams do not have any data on driving Formula 1 cars at the Losail Circuit. This means that they are heading towards the unknown with a relatively short period of time to prepare.
Looking at the layout of the Losail Circuit, and some F1 simulator videos, we can see that there is a single relatively harsh point of braking followed by a point of acceleration, but in general the entire circuit depends on aerodynamic efficiency, given that most corners are medium to high speed. With a constant change of direction, it is necessary to have stability in the rear section of the car so that the driver can steer perfectly through every corner. The main straight line is also very long at this circuit, and of course that will lead to a lot of opportunities for overtaking right up to Turn 1, which is a wide bend that will allow drivers to follow different racing lines during attack and defense. The setting at turn 1 is similar, to some degree, to Turn 1 at Suzuka ancient.
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Well, what does hosting the 5,380 km Losail circuit with its 16 corners mean for the title battle between Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull rival Max Verstappen? Ultimately, that's what matters to us all for sure! Constant changes of direction from one corner to another, at fairly high speeds, will certainly benefit Mercedes, as this will increase the ease of raising the tire temperature, which was the main weakness of the Mercedes "W12" in 2021. And thus the Mercedes team will be able to take advantage and extract the maximum potential of their car. This is coupled with the remarkable improvement in Mercedes’ recent performance and the ability to find the perfect balance for a car that was not, at least in the early stages of this season, the best. As for the main straight line, Honda's power unit has proven itself in the 2021 season, so Red Bull could have an advantage there, with the potential to complete many overtakings. But Mercedes has also made good progress with its new power unit, though there has been speculation from the Red Bull/Honda camp about what the German manufacturer is doing to outsmart the top speeds at the end of the straights. But let's not forget that there have been some concerns about the reliability of Mercedes’ engines lately. Of course, the differences between Red Bull and Mercedes are very small, and the simplest circumstances can change the balance of power from one team to another with the amazing closeness of performance between the two leaders. This makes this unpredictable season truly legendary.
However, let's move away from the topic of Qatar hosting a Formula 1 race in 2021. As we said, that was to be expected in the end. However, the surprising news was the confirmation of Qatar's signing of a long-term contract with Formula 1, guaranteeing its presence in the championship calendar starting from 2023 and for 10 years, with Qatar's absence in 2022 due to hosting the FIFA World Cup. This was very important for Qatar, confirming that being in the 2021 calendar was not just a temporary solution, as happened with many other circuits in light of the Formula 1 modifications and the complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic. But rather it is just the starting point for a massive project for Formula 1 in Qatar. Qatar is likely to host Formula 1 races in a street circuit starting from 2023, in the city of Doha, with amazing equipment, preparations, and infrastructure.
Less than a month away from the start of the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix, we will surely enjoy the Losail Circuit keeping in mind the expectations of the wonderful project that Qatar is building for the future of Formula 1 in the coming years!