And so to Qatar…

The word in the Middle East is that a deal has been struck for a Formula 1 race in the final part of this season at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The news is yet to be officially confirmed.

The race would be an addition to the calendar to replace Australia, for financial reasons rather than to help F1 get around quarantine problems. At the moment Qatar and the UAE (Abu Dhabi) are both on Britain’s red list. Saudi Arabia is not.

This means that the best course of action would be to have the Jeddah race as the last event, so that the majority of the 10 days after leaving a red list country would be spent in Saudi Arabia, which is on the amber list.

This would not be important if the World Championship is settled before the last race, but Abu Dhabi is believed to pay a premium to host the final event. Having the three races back to back on Nov 28/Dec 5/Dec 12 would guarantee three high-paying races, without quarantine problems if F1 people stayed on for a couple of extra days after the last event.

F1 must wait to see if the British shift some countries from red to amber next week when revisions are due. This is also important with regard to the Brazilian and Turkish GPs, as both are still on the red list. However if both have a race in a non-red list country a week afterwards, the quarantine requirement can be largely avoided. At the moment Japan is scheduled after Turkey but we don’t yet have any event that fits the bill for Brazil.

With Qatar, however, F1 would get the 23 races it wants.

Qatar has long had ambitions to host a Grand Prix, but Bahrain and Abu Dhabi have monopolised the Middle Eastern dates on the F1 calendar. The arrival this year of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia seems to have changed the landscape somewhat, and the inclusion of Qatar is particularly interesting given the problems in recent years between the country and its Gulf neighbours, which led to diplomatic relations being severed in 2017. A settlement was reached to normalise the situation only in January this year.

Qatar has been hosting MotoGP races since 2004 and held the first MotoGP night race in 2008, but its biggest sporting coup was winning the FIFA World Cup soccer competition back in 2010. The World Cup will take place at the end of 2022 despite claims that the process was conducted in a corrupt fashion. These claims and legal actions pertaining to them continue, but it looks like the tournament will go ahead as planned. Qatar will be the first Arab nation to host the World Cup.

It is not unusual for countries to turn to F1 after other big events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, in order to maintain their international profile, with Barcelona and Sochi being good examples of this concept. Thus it is quite likely that a 2021 race could be a precursor for a bid for a permanent place on the F1 calendar, which might explain Qatar’s sudden willingness to join the party.

This would suit F1 as it seeks to boost the number of World Championship races each year – and the annual revenues of the sport. It could also help other Middle Eastern races as it might boost interest in F1 in the region and generate more spectators at each event, although none of them currently requires ticket sales to pay the race fees.

18 thoughts on “And so to Qatar…

  1. It seems to be a bit of a fool’s errand to rearrange races on the calendar in December based on mid-July British politics.

    Show me someone who confidently predicts the COVID situation in all these countries 4 1/2 months into the future and I show you a liar and/or fool.

    1. I live in this region (in the UAE). I assure you the situation is fine, infection rates are low and vaccination rates are world leading. The fact we are on the UK’s red list is a joke.

        1. In what other venue, does a published author respond to reader’s views with insults? None. Ever. It shows no professionalism. I was in journalism. We never responded. We had our forum. Readers got to voice their opinion on what we wrote. That was the end of it.

            1. For the record, I was not insulted. Joe was just stating a fact.

              There is a review to the UK’s red list coming up soon and people here are hopeful of a bump to the Amber list.

              P.S. Keep up the excellent work Joe.

  2. Joe thanks, this all adds up logically.

    What odds would you give the Dubai venue also slotting in to make it 4 ME venues rounding off the year?

  3. Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi. Too many in that region, Covid kind of forces it along with weather needs at the time of year.

    Money talks, but these soulless places don’t do it for me, even before you consider the human rights issues of a few on the list. Hopefully the two new to F1 tracks are better though.

  4. Are Qatar not the mortal enemies of Bahrain?
    Could there be consequences? Could Bahrain launch aerial offensives against the Qatar race, and vice versa?

  5. Qatar has a population of approximately 2.5m people so I don’t believe that the vaccinations are an issue.
    The fact that both the UAE & Qatar have promoted themselves as being the major transport hubs of the last 5 years and hence vectors may be more applicable.

    I’ve been around Lusail quite a bit. Its good for bikes, but not sure its suitable for F1 cars in it’s current configuration through.

  6. Hopefully they will get a larger crowd than they do for motogp. They pay heavily to get the opening race of the season and literally dozens of fans rattle around in the huge grandstands. It is quite possible that the move to a night race was to hide the grandstands in darkness, as they are so sparsely occupied.
    2019 they had their biggest crowd with just over 32000 attending over the three days. Most of the tracks get at least 150,000.

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