Formula 1 will be heading to the Losail International Circuit for the first time in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this weekend.
It will be F1’s first foray into Qatar before a 10-year deal struck with the Middle Eastern nation begins in 2023, and the World Championship battle could hardly be more finely poised heading into the final leg of the sport’s latest triple-header of race weekends.
Lewis Hamilton’s last-to-first victory across the sprint and race in Brazil will stay long in the memory, but he still has 14 points to make up on title rival Max Verstappen as they drive their first laps around a new circuit for Formula 1 this weekend.
A couple of familiar faces already have experience in Qatar though, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg having won a race each when the GP2 Asia series visited Losail back in 2009.
In the here and now, however, Formula 1 takes a leap into the unknown at a circuit which has been a prominent feature on the motorcycle racing calendar since the circuit’s construction in 2004.
Here is everything you need to know ahead of the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix…
When is the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?
Practice 1: Friday 19 November: 1330-1430 (1030-1130 UK time)
Practice 2: Friday 19 November: 1700-1800 (1400-1500 UK time)
Practice 3: Saturday 20 November: 1400-1500 (1100-1200 UK time)
Qualifying: Saturday 20 November: 1700 (1400 UK time)
Race: Sunday 21 November: 1700 (1400 UK time)
Where does the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix take place?
The Losail International Circuit hasn’t hosted a huge amount of car racing in the past, but the generally fast and flowing nature of the 16 turns should hopefully make for a good spectacle in Formula 1 cars.
The start/finish straight is a kilometre long, leading to what will be the most likely overtaking spot at Turn 1, and will hold the only DRS zone of the weekend.
Several challenges for the drivers to negotiate should be presented in the middle sector. Without a full back straight, they will almost constantly be working the steering wheel at some point.
The triple apex right-handers of Turns 12, 13 and 14 will set up the final part of the lap, with the nature of the corners leading George Russell to compare Qatar to Mugello, in terms of the circuit’s characteristics.
Click here for our full track guide.
Where can I watch the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?
Every session, from the start of FP1 to the end of the race, can be found on pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports in the UK. A live stream of their coverage can also be accessed via Now TV.
Highlights of qualifying and the race will also be shown on free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4.
You can watch all the action from Qatar live with F1 TV Pro. Please check to see if it is available in your country.
Subscribers to the official F1 app can access live data throughout the race weekend and listen to radio commentary there on race day.
PlanetF1 will carry live timing and expert commentary on every session, with coverage beginning 30 minutes before each practice and qualifying, and one hour before the race.
The Qatar Grand Prix will be shown live on TV on the following outlets in other key markets:
United States: ESPN
Canada: RDS (French), TSN (English)
Australia: Fox Sports
Italy: Sky Sport F1
Germany: Sky Sport F1
Netherlands: Ziggo Sport
What are the odds for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?
Here are Planet Sport Bet’s latest odds on the winner of the Qatar Grand Prix:
Lewis Hamilton: 2/5
Max Verstappen: 11/4
Valtteri Bottas: 10/1
Pierre Gasly: 50/1
Sergio Perez: 80/1
(Odds correct as of November 20. Head to Planet Sport Bet for up-to-date prices and further markets).
What is the starting grid for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri
3 Fernando Alonso Alpine
4 Lando Norris McLaren
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes*
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull**
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren
15 George Russell Williams
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing
19 Mick Schumacher Haas
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas
* three place grid drop for qualifying infringement
** five place grid drop for qualifying infringement
What is the weather forecast for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix?
With the Losail Circuit being situated in the Middle East, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s meant to be dry all weekend, with warm conditions expected throughout the evenings as well when the sessions take place under the lights.
Friday: 27°C, sunny spells during daytime and a dry evening, across all three days.
Saturday: 28°C peak temperature
Sunday: 29°C peak temperature
Directions to the Qatar Grand Prix
The circuit is located around 20 miles north of Doha, and travelling out of the city centre, you can either head along the Q6 Al Khor Coastal Road before taking exit 32, past the Losail Shooting Club, and following the signs to the track.
Alternatively, you can join the Al Khor Coastal Road if you are leaving from the other side of the city by taking exit 16 from the Q1 Al Shamal Road, which will take you across to the Al Khor Coastal Road.
What are the latest F1 Championship standings?
Max Verstappen – 332.5 points
Lewis Hamilton – 318.5 points
Valtteri Bottas – 203 points
Sergio Perez – 178 points
Lando Norris – 151 points
Mercedes – 521.5 points
Red Bull – 510.5 points
Ferrari – 287.5 points
McLaren – 256 points
Alpine – 112 points
AlphaTauri – 112 points
Tyre choices for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix
Given the number of medium and high-speed corners on show in Losail, alongside what is set to be a warm track surface, Pirelli have opted to bring their three hardest compounds with them to Qatar.
This will make their C1 compound the hard, the C2 the medium and the C3 will act as the soft tyre, with the even grippier C4 and C5 compounds being left behind on this occasion.
Degradation looks set to be a big talking point across the weekend, but time will tell if the drivers are able to manage their grip levels as the weekend progresses. Expect plenty of running during practice, with the vast majority of the grid having never driven around the track before.