F1 schedule 2021: Qatar added to race calendar in major shake-up


F1 has announced its replacement for the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, as the sport ventures to a Middle East nation for the first time.

Qatar will hold its first ever Formula One Grand Prix in November, replacing the cancelled Australian GP, organisers announced on Friday.

The race will take place at the Losail International Circuit north of Doha on November 21 and will form the first part of a Middle Eastern ending to the Formula One season as it will be followed by races in Saudi Arabia and the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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But this isn’t just a one-off event. Qatar has also signed a 10-year deal to host Formula One races from 2023, which F1 presenter Will Buxton described on Twitter as a “huge announcement”.

The Australian GP, traditionally a season-opener, was moved towards the end of the season in a bid to ensure it could go ahead in the light of Covid-19 restrictions. Despite that, it was cancelled for a second year running.

“We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula 1 calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023,” said F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“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.”

The Losail Circuit opened in 2004 and has hosted Moto GP since then, under floodlights which will also be used for the Grand Prix.

In its statement, F1 said it would confirm the venue for the race in Qatar from 2023 onward at a later date, suggesting a possible change from Losail.

It is the latest sporting coup for gas-rich Qatar, which will host the football World Cup in 2022.

With just two points separating Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ standings, the Qatar Grand Prix could end up having a massive say in who takes the chocolates at the end of the season.

Verstappen pulled off a miracle as he finished second in the Russian Grand Prix after starting dead last on the grid as a penalty for replacing the power unit in his Red Bull.

The Russian Grand Prix saw a finish of dramatic proportions as Lando Norris fell from first place to seventh, allowing Lewis Hamilton to secure his 100th victory.

It was a heartbreaking way for Norris to finish and many fans were gutted the rain falling on the last few laps robbed the rising star of the chance to stand on top of the podium.

With Matthew Sullivan

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