QATAR will host its first Formula One race in November as part of the series’ pandemic-related schedule shuffling, and the nation signed a 10-year hosting agreement that begins in 2023.
The announcement on Thursday gives Qatar the last vacant slot on this year’s F1 schedule. The night race will be held under floodlights at Losail International Circuit on November 21, exactly one year before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Al Khor.
International communications company Ooredoo will be the title sponsor for the event.
The Qatar Grand Prix will be the 20th of 22 races on the F1 schedule and create a three-race swing through the Middle East to conclude the season. Qatar will be followed by the inaugural Saudi Arabian GP in Jeddah and the December 12 season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.
“There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed,” F1 said in a statement on Thursday. “The vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the [soccer] World Cup in 2022 was the driving force.”
The Qatari circuit is most recognized for the MotoGP events it has hosted since 2004. The 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) circuit holds 8,000 fans. F1 had been searching for a venue to replace the Japanese Grand Prix, which was canceled in August and created a late-season hole on the schedule.
“I’m very proud that we’ve been able to support Formula 1 by stepping in and hosting a race in our country in such a short time frame, while also securing a ground-breaking long-term deal with F1,” said Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, president of Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation.
“This exciting agreement means that Qatar will be the home of both Formula 1 and MotoGP for the next decade, which are the pinnacle events in global motorsport. We have a proud motorsport history and this is the next chapter for us. Qatar will be a great destination for F1 and we look forward to welcoming all the drivers, teams, media and fans very soon.”
Because of the World Cup next year, the 10-year deal to host F1 will not begin until 2023. But F1 said it is in discussion on if Losail will be the venue beginning in 2023 because the circuit needs alterations.
“We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport, and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix,” F1 president Stefano Domenicali said. “The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and (governing body) FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22-race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year.”
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, used his overtaking skills, strategic thinking and driving skills in the rain to fight back from seventh place on the first lap to a landmark victory to retake the championship lead from Max Verstappen at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi recently.
It was Hamilton’s 100th F1 race victory.
Hamilton was chasing Lando Norris for the lead when the rain started late in the race. Hamilton heeded his team’s advice to stop for intermediate tires—though he was reluctant to break off chasing Norris—but Norris stayed out on slick tires and paid the price when he slid off the track and let Hamilton through.
“It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and at times, I wasn’t sure it would come,” Hamilton said. It was Hamilton’s fifth win of the season and his first since the British Grand Prix in July.
“It’s a magical moment,” Hamilton added. “I could only have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive with such phenomenal talents this late in my career.”
Hamilton turned Verstappen’s five-point championship lead into a two-point lead of his own after the Dutch driver finished second after a dramatic drive from last on the grid. Carlos Sainz led the race early on and finished third for Ferrari.
Image courtesy of AP