Qatar added to 2021 calendar for its first ever Formula One Grand Prix


Formula One has confirmed that Qatar will host its inaugural Grand Prix on November 21.

The 3.4-mile Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar, will host the twilight race in place of the Australian Grand Prix, which was axed due to Covid travel restrictions. 

Qatar will not have a race in 2022 due to their hosting of the football World Cup but will commence a 10-year deal from 2023 with the aim to have a bespoke track ready by then. 

Losail International Circuit in Doha will play host to the first ever Qatar Grand Prix this season

Lewis Hamilton (second left) and Max Verstappen (far left) will take their title fight to Doha

Lewis Hamilton (second left) and Max Verstappen (far left) will take their title fight to Doha

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE

‘It’s no secret that rich countries in the Middle East see top-level sport as a means to rebrand and sportswash their images, and a Grand Prix in Qatar would be more of the same.

‘Having sunk vast amounts of money into Paris Saint-German and hired thousands of overseas workers to build stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Qatar is clearly attempting to turn itself into a sporting superpower.

‘Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling – from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and its criminalisation of same-sex relations.

‘Formula One should insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains.

‘Drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to this race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportwashing and image-management.’

The decision to hold a race in Qatar has come in for much criticism though, with Amnesty International urging drivers to speak out about human rights issues.

A spokesperson for the organisation told Sportsmail: ‘It’s no secret that rich countries in the Middle East see top-level sport as a means to rebrand and sportswash their images, and a Grand Prix in Qatar would be more of the same.

‘Having sunk vast amounts of money into Paris Saint-German and hired thousands of overseas workers to build stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Qatar is clearly attempting to turn itself into a sporting superpower.

‘Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling – from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and its criminalisation of same-sex relations.

‘Formula One should insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains.

‘Drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to this race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportwashing and image-management.’

In response, Formula One said they take their responsibilities ‘very seriously’.

‘For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits,’ a statement read. 

‘Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

‘We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on rights clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect our responsibilities in the way their events are hosted and delivered.’

Meanwhile, Telecommunications company Ooredoo will pose as the Grand Prix’s title sponsor.  

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of F1, said in a statement: ‘We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula 1 calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023. The Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation and Authorities have been incredible and have moved at great speed to ensure the race can take place this season at the Losail Circuit, famous to many as the host of MotoGP.

‘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. 

‘The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and the FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22 race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year and something we can all be proud of.’

Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, President of Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation, added: ‘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 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.’

The 3.4-mile circuit is typically used for MotoGP but will now host Formula 1 on November 21

The 3.4-mile circuit is typically used for MotoGP but will now host Formula 1 on November 21

REVISED F1 CALENDAR

October 10 – Turkey (Istanbul Park)

October 24 – USA (Austin)

November 7 – Mexico (Mexico City)

November 14 – Brazil (Interlagos)

November 21 – Qatar (Doha)

December 5 – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah)

December 12 – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

‘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.’

F1 had been targeting a record 23 races but due to a number of cancellations have accepted a revised calendar of 22 races, which will see the season finish with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. 

The Gulf state has faced intense scrutiny in recent years from human rights organisations over the living and working conditions of migrant workers and the award of a Grand Prix has angered some fans.  

Qatar, who will be home to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, have been pushing to host a Grand Prix since 2015. Attempts then to host a Grand Prix were vetoed by Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

The conclusion to the 2021 calendar has drawn plenty of criticism, particularly surrounding the penultimate race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

Organisers of the Jeddah street circuit event signed a £500million 10-year deal last year. 

Human rights groups have condemned the race with the country’s human rights record described by Amnesty International as ‘heinous’ back in November. 

The FIA, the governing body, are a strictly non-political organisation, so take no position on Saudi Arabia’s restrictive culture, just as do not involve themselves in the internal affairs of other host countries.

But Liberty Media, the sport’s owners, welcomed the Saudi race, which follows Aramco, the state-owned oil giant company, having already concluding a global sponsorship deal with F1 that started last season.

Qatar has pushed for a Grand Prix since 2015 and will commence a 10-year deal from 2023

Qatar has pushed for a Grand Prix since 2015 and will commence a 10-year deal from 2023

A spokesman for Liberty last year said: ‘For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including bringing economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

‘We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.’

Quizzed on criticism of the nation last year, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi sports minister, told Sportsmail: ‘Saudi Arabia has been criticised for being closed off from the world but now we are opening up. We make sure we work to international guidelines. Sport is part of a strategy we have to deliver for the good of the people of the country. 

‘Everyone will be welcome to the race. F1 has a big following in the kingdom and this builds on that momentum.

It is currently unclear whether Losail will host just 2021, or also future Qatar races from 2023

It is currently unclear whether Losail will host just 2021, or also future Qatar races from 2023

‘We are giving visas for tourism and so on, so we hope people will have a better understanding of Saudi Arabia in the future. Sport has a role to play in our development, getting people active and exposing them to several sports.’

The addition of Qatar, which precedes Saudi Arabia, arrives as annoyance for Russia. 

Russia, who hosted the previous round of racing in Sochi, had been keen to be given a second race following race cancellations in Australia, Singapore, Canada, Japan and China.

‘This year, we discussed holding a second race at Sochi,’ said Russian GP race promoter Alexey Titov, quoted by Russian media outlet Championat

‘Such discussions were held against the backdrop of changes in the calendar due to the coronavirus. I was a little disappointed that there would not be a second race. Then, in 2022, we would have held the 10th grand prix at Sochi which would have added a degree of completeness to the event. But that’s the way it is.’  

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