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Qatar Grand Prix 2021: Losail International Circuit guide

Qatar Grand Prix 2021: Losail International Circuit guide

F1 News

Qatar Grand Prix 2021: Losail International Circuit guide

Qatar Grand Prix 2021: Losail International Circuit guide

F1 embarks on a new voyage this weekend as Qatar hosts the sport for the first time.

The Losail International Circuit has made its fame as the now-traditional season opener for MotoGP, where the race is run under the 3600 floodlights.

Situated around half an hour north of Qatari capital Doha, the venue was added to the F1 calendar to fill the void left after the Australian GP was cancelled for a second year in succession.

The country, although not the Losail circuit itself, has been awarded a 10-year contract starting in 2023, a year after the country hosts the FIFA World Cup.

But what can F1 expect from the circuit and who will prosper?

The circuit

A circuit that holds an FIA grade one license, the addition of Losail at short notice made complete sense.

The layout should provide qualifying excitement too, even if we are slightly pessimistic about the quality of racing come race day.

The lap starts with a blast down the start-finish straight and into a long right-hander, similar to turn three at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. This feeds into a medium speed left-hander before a flat-out right at turn three leads onto a short straight.

Turns four and five are medium-to-high speed right-handers before a left-hand hairpin steadies the flow somewhat.

The traction zone is on a curve, akin to the exit of turn 11 in Bahrain, before a slow-to-medium speed right-hander, an open hairpin much like turn two in Hungary.

Turns eight and nine make up a high-speed chicane similar to turns 13 and 14 at Mugello before drivers are greeted with another curving, hairpin-like corner with an asymmetrical traction zone.

Now for the fun part! A triple-apex, near full-chat right-hand complex through 12, 13 and 14 before a small run down to another high-speed jink left at 15.

The lap finishes with a medium speed right-hander at turn 16 before the final straight that measures just over a kilometre, with the sole DRS zone beginning 200m after the exit of the final turn.

The track has not been reprofiled or resurfaced since opening in 2004, so the highly-abrasive nature of the surface should provide high grip and high degradation.

A driver's challenge for sure, qualifying should be spectacular although the race itself, largely due to the consistent medium speed corners, could be a different matter.

What lap times can we expect?

This is a difficult one to judge given the lack of single-seater running on the circuit.

Whilst the medium-speed corners for the F1 cars are much lower speed for the MotoGP field, lap times will be much faster than the one minute, 53 second pole position time set at this year's Doha Motorcycle Grand Prix by Jorge Martin.

Taking Silverstone and Barcelona as comparative circuits between F1 and MotoGP, taking into account the layout profiles of each track, there is around a 27-second deficit in average pole position time between the series.

With this in mind, we would expect qualifying lap times in the region of one minute, 23secs to one minute, 25secs, although the high-grip nature of the circuit could see the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull dip into the one minute, 22s.

Who will be fast?

The expectation is that Mercedes will be slightly favoured considering the pace shown in Brazil last week, the long start-finish straight and its strong pace in comparative tracks such as Hungary and Spain.

As we have seen so far this season, however, there is rarely any disparity between Mercedes and Red Bull so a result cannot be taken for granted, especially being three races away from determining a champion.

In Red Bull's favour, Sergio Perez has been here before and won! His victory in race two of the 2009 GP2 Asia Series round in Qatar saw him joined by Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg on the podium.

In the midfield, it seems as though Ferrari has the upper hand over McLaren, yet this circuit layout should help the Woking-based outfit slightly more than recent events.

AlphaTauri and Alpine will enter the weekend level on points again in the race for fifth and, as we know, Alpine took victory in Hungary. Anything can happen!

Where can we see overtaking?

It is hard to see anywhere other than into turn one with the DRS and slipstream but even that will be more difficult than most circuits due to the long corner profile.

Turn six could provide a chance if a car could follow through turns four and five, with 10 providing a similar opportunity.

The key here really is to nail the traction zone and minimum corner speeds through turn 16 to earn a strong position to make a move into the first corner.

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