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Thursday, December 2, 2021

What F1 can count on from Qatar from GP2’s sole sojourn

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This weekend Formulation 1 will make its first go to to Qatar’s Losail Worldwide Circuit, a observe synonymous with holding the MotoGP season opener however which has solely held a smattering of high-profile four-wheeled occasions.

The three.3-mile observe was in-built time for the 2004 MotoGP spherical and includes a fundamental straight that’s over a kilometre lengthy. Floodlighting was added in 2007 – the gallons of diesel required to energy mills isn’t an issue on this oil-rich state – permitting it to run occasions within the night to a ‘European’ schedule to negate the time distinction.

Some true legends of modern-day MotoGP have received there – particularly Sete Gibernau, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and 2021 champion Fabio Quartararo.

By way of automotive racing, its first occasion was the short-lived Grand Prix Masters single-seater sequence for retired F1 heroes in April 2006. Nigel Mansell received that race, forward of Christian Danner and Eric van de Poele. It additionally hosted the World Touring Automobile Championship for 3 seasons between 2015 and 2017, with retiring tin-top legend Gabriele Tarquini among the many victors in 2016.

However its most high-profile automotive occasion up to now was the ‘Grand Racing Weekend’ (clearly Wallace and Gromit have been large in Qatar) that includes GP2 Asia and Speedcar Sequence, which had been switched from a date in Dubai for a purpose that escapes this author.

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It’s a 15-mile drive from Doha to the confusingly-named close by metropolis of Lusail, which was below development and was the closest factor to a ghost metropolis I’ve ever encountered. There have been impressively big buildings virtually in all places you seemed, however no one appeared to truly reside there. Losail Worldwide Circuit was a number of miles down the street as you headed inland and, in fact, it’s in the course of the desert.

Pre-event sandstorm meant grip was at a premium for 2009 GP2 Asia assembly

Picture by: Motorsport Images

There, it was tough to determine the place the desert ended and the racetrack began: An enormous sandstorm had simply blown by way of and the solar was discovering it arduous to penetrate the dusty smog it had left behind.

By means of observe and qualifying, drivers grumbled in regards to the lack of grip. Underneath the lights, the circuit had an ethereal look with the sand particles within the environment making the floodlights glimmer. Of the flat, featureless circuit – which makes Silverstone appear to be the Himalayas – Jean Alesi remarked that he “wasn’t at all times positive the place I used to be on the observe”.

At the least the NASCAR-styled Speedcars that the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix winner was racing – successfully a late mannequin inventory automotive purpose-built for street programs – may lean on one another when it got here to the races. In GP2, the one actual overtaking spot was Flip 1 – considerably harking back to when F1 raced at Mugello final yr.

For those who arrive with a pace benefit in your rival, then the surface line is totally doable to make a transfer stick. If a automotive does defend the within line, it’s more likely to slide vast and open up a possible switchback.

It’s the one race I’ve ever been to the place somebody ran alongside the entrance of the grandstand like a cheerleader, swirling an enormous sword above his head – which actually appeared to stir the group’s enthusiasm to cheer louder…

The opposite 15 corners? A trio of lengthy, wide-open switchback bends, the place most tried passes ended up with contact and a automotive within the gravel, and the remainder are high-speed sweepers – which is able to create some spectacular g-loads however little in the best way of overtaking. Observe limits will undoubtedly should be strictly enforced, because the kerbs are flat and vast.

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have been the GP2 winners that weekend, the previous utilizing a intelligent overcut technique within the characteristic race because the Bridgestone tyres suffered extreme graining points – however when you have been by way of that part, the tyre bought quicker. The observe hasn’t been resurfaced because it was laid; the constant temperatures within the Gulf states imply that’s not an issue – however the sand rolling throughout it actually is.

Hulkenberg holds the lap document along with his 1m35.741s qualifying gambit, however count on F1 automobiles to smash that by something as much as 15s or extra in qualifying trim.

Turn 1 right-hander invites cars to take a lunge

Flip 1 right-hander invitations automobiles to take a lunge

Picture by: Motorsport Images

The circuit solely had one grandstand (capability 8,000) again then, throughout from the pits, and one of many GP2 groups’ native sponsors really paid folks to show up. It’s additionally the one race I’ve ever been to the place somebody ran alongside the entrance of the grandstand like a cheerleader, swirling an enormous sword above his head – which actually appeared to stir the group’s enthusiasm to cheer louder…

Qatar Motor and Motorbike Federation president Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah instructed me that weekend he was within the technique of making use of for an FIA Grade 1T observe licence, and that it will require the asphalting of fifty% of its run-offs to realize the licence. Positive sufficient, that has since was full Grade 1 for this weekend’s Grand Prix.

The observe has constructed some further seating to the north of the principle grandstand, in the direction of Flip 1, plus short-term grandstands on the within and out of doors of Flip 10, with further VIP seating too. However do not count on an enormous crowd, with the ticket costs beginning at $310. Possibly they’ll want the chap with the sword to point out up once more!

Sergio Perez is one of few current F1 drivers who has raced at the circuit before

Sergio Perez is one in all few present F1 drivers who has raced on the circuit earlier than

Picture by: Motorsport Images

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