Inaugural Qatar Grand Prix added to 2021 F1 calendar, 10-year deal signed from 2023

By Sports Desk September 30, 2021

An inaugural Qatar Grand Prix has been added to the Formula One calendar this year and a 10-year deal has been agreed for the race to be staged from 2023.

The Losail International Circuit will stage a first grand prix on November 19-21, filling a space left in the schedule left by the cancelled round in Australia.

It will be the 20th race of this season, with only the Saudi Arabian GP on December 3-5 and the Abu Dhabi GP on December 10-12 to come after the event in Qatar.

Losail has hosted the MotoGP series since 2004.

An F1 statement said: "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 for 10 years.

"The step from the gesture to be helpful to F1 in 2021 to a long-term strategy was short and simple, and the vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the FIFA World Cup in 2022 was the driving force behind this long-term agreement.

"As part of the longer-term deal, discussions will continue regarding the location for the grand prix from 2023 with further details to be provided at a later time."

Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, president of Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, said: "This is a very special day for Qatar motorsport and our nation's ambitions as a host of major sporting events.

"I'm very proud that we've been able to support Formula One 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.

"This exciting agreement means that Qatar will be the home of both Formula One 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."

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    One of the most memorable Formula One title races in history could be settled this weekend as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton continue their thrilling 2021 battle at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

    A high-speed street race in Jeddah will become the 76th circuit to host an event in F1 history and could be the scene of Verstappen being crowned world champion for the first time.

    Verstappen takes an eight-point lead to Saudi Arabia and after the event there will only be 26 left up for grabs in the Abu Dhabi season finale.

    But it is his in-form title rival Hamilton who will be feeling the best heading to a new venue as he seeks a third consecutive race victory for the first time in 2021.

    Hamilton has launched a stunning late-season charge in his bid to win an eighth world title that would take him above Michael Schumacher for the all-time record but still finds himself with little margin for error.

    Should Verstappen win the title, it would be the first time a championship has been decided at a debuting circuit since 1981 when Nelson Piquet was crowned in Las Vegas.

    There is also a scenario where the two drivers could, fittingly, go into the last race of the season tied.

    If Hamilton wins while setting the fastest lap and Verstappen comes second, the top two would be level going into the final event for the first time since 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi did battle against Clay Regazzoni.

    It has been an incredibly consistent season for Verstappen, who has nine wins, nine pole positions and finished in the top two for 16 of the 17 races he has finished.

    Verstappen could earn a 17th podium in Saudi Arabia that would equal the record jointly held by Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher for the most in a single season.

    But victory is all that really matters to both drivers on Sunday, with a brand-new circuit containing 27 corners – the most on the F1 calendar – set to play a huge role in determining the outcome of a dramatic season.

    LAST TIME OUT

    Hamilton celebrated consecutive Formula One wins for the first time since May in the first-ever edition of the Qatar Grand Prix.

    Verstappen limited the damage despite a five-place grid penalty due to a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying, impressively recovering to finish second.

    The Dutchman also took the extra point for the fastest lap, assured of beating Hamilton to that feat due to a late virtual safety car following a series of punctures.

    That outcome set up a tantalising final two races of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

    The two title rivals were joined on the Losail podium by Fernando Alonso, the two-time champion's first top-three finish since 2014.

    Valtteri Bottas, running in third, suffered a puncture as he attempted a one-stop strategy and ultimately retired, while Sergio Perez questioned Red Bull's call to bring him in twice as he pursued a podium.

    The Mexican could not catch Alonso and had to settle for fourth place, ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.

    WHAT TO EXPECT IN SAUDI ARABIA

    With all the momentum behind him, Hamilton goes into the race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit as the favourite for victory, a result which would put the record eighth title within his grasp.

    But for Verstappen this event is the first of two opportunities he will have to be crowned world champion. Even a small mistake from either driver at this stage could prove pivotal and the stakes could not be higher.

    Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said their W12 car is performing better than it has been all season ahead of the event, with Red Bull under pressure to bounce back.

    The constructors' championship is also up for grabs. Red Bull have closed to within five points of their rivals, while Ferrari are looking to lock up third place ahead of McLaren.

    Aside from the championship implications, the debut of the fastest street circuit on the calendar at another new F1 venue should be intriguing.

    F1 have revealed average speeds are predicted to be over 155mph with top speeds almost reaching 200mph in what could be a spectacular night race under the lights.

    TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

    Hamilton history – The Briton has become the F1 driver with the most seasons (eight) that contain at least seven victories, surpassing Schumacher (seven seasons).

    Maiden Mercedes – The team have won the race and taken pole position in the last five circuit debuts in F1. As well as in Qatar time out, it also happened in Sochi (2014), Baku (2016), Mugello (2020), Portimao (2020).

    Pole position – If Mercedes claim pole it will be their fourth in a row and best run of the season. However, Red Bull have had the better of qualifying this season, as Hamilton and Bottas combined (eight) have fewer poles than Verstappen alone (nine).

    Max milestones – Should Verstappen be crowned world champion, he will be the first Dutchman to achieve the feat, the first non-Mercedes driver to do it in the eight hybrid era years and the fourth-youngest in history at 24.

    Perez progress – While Verstappen's team-mate will not be thrilled to sit fourth in the standings, he has still collected nine points more in 20 races for Red Bull (190) than his predecessor Alex Albon did in 26 races (181) for the team.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 351.5
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 343.5
    3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203
    4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 190
    5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 153

    Constructors

    1. Mercedes 546.5
    2. Red Bull 541.5
    3. Ferrari 297.5
    4. McLaren 258
    5. Alpine 137

  • 'True giant' of Formula One Frank Williams dies aged 79 'True giant' of Formula One Frank Williams dies aged 79

    Williams founder and former team principal Frank Williams has died at the age of 79.

    Having founded the team alongside Patrick Head in 1977, Williams saw the team he built become one of the most successful in Formula One.

    They won nine constructors' championships and seven drivers' championships across his time with the team. Williams have not claimed either since winning both in 1997 when Jacques Villeneuve won the drivers' crown.

    The team sold to US investors in 2020. Williams and his daughter Claire, who had served as deputy team principal, moved away from F1 last year.

    A statement from Williams read: "It is with great sadness that on behalf of the Williams family, the team can confirm the death of Sir Frank Williams CBE, founder and former team principal of Williams Racing, at the age of 79.

    "After being admitted into hospital on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family.

    "Today we pay tribute to our much loved and inspirational figurehead. Frank will be sorely missed. We request that all friends and colleagues respect the Williams family's wishes for privacy at this time."

    Referencing the spinal cord injury suffered in a car crash in 1986 that left Williams in a wheelchair, F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali said: "He was a true giant of our sport that overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track.

    "We have lost a much loved and respected member of the F1 family and he will be hugely missed.

    “His incredible achievements and personality will be etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and friends at this sad time."

  • Hamilton: I want to see Russell win a world championship Hamilton: I want to see Russell win a world championship

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    The British drivers will link up next season, with Russell set to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

    The 24-year-old is 15th in the drivers' standings, having achieved his first podium with Williams at the Belgian Grand Prix, while also recording top-10 finishes in Hungary, Italy and Russia.

    Many expect Russell to offer a genuine challenge to Hamilton, who recently signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes, with the latter seeking an eighth world title and just eight points behind leader Max Verstappen heading into the final two races of the 2021 season.

    The 36-year-old is anticipating a healthy rivalry with his compatriot and hopes he can be a positive influence on the 2018 Formula 2 world champion.

    "You've seen George is hugely respectful," he said in an interview published by BBC Sport.

    "He's a super-talented young man and I think there's a huge amount of respect already going in, and we've got a nice balance at the moment.

    "But he's going to want to be quick, he's going to want to show up and win, and do all those things that you do when you enter a new role.

    "I remember in 2007 when I went up against [Fernando] Alonso [at McLaren]. Of course, I wanted to beat him at the first race, so I appreciate and expect George to have that mentality; otherwise he's not a winner.

    "But I'm in a different place. I really want to see him succeed. There's going to be a point where I don't continue in this sport. He's my team-mate, and he's going to be the next Brit that I want to see win a world championship.

    "So, while we are going to be competing, and I want to win on track. I really hope I can have a positive influence on how he conducts himself within the team, whether it's the time he commits to engineering or how he churns through the data, or even just how he drives on track."

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