Season’s final triple-header comes to end at the maiden Qatar Grand Prix.
After a thrilling race in Brazil, Formula One travels to new waters—or land, shall we say—as the final race of the triple-header comes to Qatar.
The inaugural Qatar Grand Prix will take place at the Losail International Circuit, and although it has been a home to racing through MotoGP, Formula One will be making its debut at the circuit this weekend.
A new track for an epic title battle is probably just what the doctor ordered. With no previous form or experience, both Mercedes and Red Bull—along with the others—will go into the weekend not knowing what to expect.
What can be expected, though, is that the championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will surely see another great on-track battle. After Hamilton’s incredible weekend in São Paulo, Verstappen and Red Bull will be wary of not giving the defending champion any momentum going into the final three races of the season.
The lap at the Losail Circuit begins down the 1068-metre start/finish straight, which will see the drivers go flat out with the throttle pressed down and their DRS open.
The long straight leads to Turn 1, which will give the drivers an opportunity to overtake into the slow right-hander before just lifting as they exit into the tight left-hander of Turn 2.
Drivers will need to press on the brakes to go through the dual 90-degree right-hand corners of Turns 4 and 5, which precede the tightest corner of the lap — a hairpin bend of Turn 6.
The next three turns come quickly, and drivers will have to stay alert heading into Turn 10, which will see a change in the direction. Turn 10 heads into one of the fastest corners of the lap, leading into the triple right sequence of Turns 12 to 14 before heading to the penultimate corner of Turn 15.
The final turn, Turn 16, will need the drivers to pin the brakes hard and make a clean exit as they head down the start/finish straight.
THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
It’s the season of firsts; after introducing a brand new format in the Sprint, Formula One travels to new territory as we head to Losail for the first-ever Qatar Grand Prix.
Teams head to Losail without any prior knowledge of the track or conditions, and to make matters worse, they are going there as part of a triple-header, which means there hasn’t been much time to prepare either.
The track, though, looks like it will give us an entertaining race. With one of the longest straights on the calendar and tight corners, Losail is sure to test the drivers and bring out the best in them.
Although this is the first time in Qatar, it isn’t a one-off appearance as Formula One has recently signed the circuit up for a ten-year deal starting from 2023, which means we will see a lot more racing in Qatar.
Charged up Hamilton
The Brazilian weekend saw Lewis Hamilton put in not only one of his best drives of the season, but also one of the finest drives of his career. With his back against the wall, Hamilton showed the world why he is a seven-time World Champion as he came from the back of the grid on multiple occasions to take a stunning victory.
Hamilton and Mercedes knew how crucial the Brazilian weekend was; a loss to Red Bull there and the championship fight could well have been over. But as the saying goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man,’ and Hamilton rose to the occasion and not only kept his and his team’s championship hopes alive, but with a fresh power unit, he has the pace and momentum going into the final three races of the season.
Hamilton hasn’t faced a title challenge quite like this since his 2016 fight with his then-teammate Nico Rosberg. Last week’s penalties and disqualifications seemed to have charged up the Brit, and heading into the Qatar Grand Prix, he seems to have the bit between his teeth. It is going to take a Herculean effort to keep the World Champion quiet.
Giovinazzi’s unfinished business
Alfa Romeo have announced their driver line-up ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, thereby confirming next season’s entire grid. The Swiss team have chosen Guanyu Zhou, the current Formula 2 championship contender, to partner Valtteri Bottas. Zhou’s signing means that Antonio Giovinazzi is left without a seat on the grid and will be switching to Formula E.
Although Giovinazzi had been fighting for his seat all season long, it became quite clear that the Swiss team would not be going ahead with the Italian for the next season. Giovinazzi’s own on-track performances and friction within the team did not help his cause, and what seemed to be a promising start for the Ferrari Academy driver in 2019 eventually fizzled out.
Giovinazzi made his full-time debut in 2019, racing for Alfa Romeo alongside Finnish veteran Kimi Räikkönen, and had a best finish of fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix that season.
The following season was an even tougher one, and with an uncompetitive car, Giovinazzi only managed two points finishes the entire season.
The current season has also been a rough one for the Italian, who has managed a solitary point till now and has been comfortably outscored on Sundays by Räikkönen.
Although he has shown glimpses in qualifying, Giovinazzi has never been able to turn that into a strong Sunday performance, and the fact that Alfa Romeo—especially in the last two seasons—have had one of the poorer cars on the grid has only made the task tougher for him.
Giovinazzi will be leaving Alfa Romeo feeling that he didn’t really live up to his potential and could have delivered more had the machinery been a little more competitive, but such is the nature of the sport; it’s a cut-throat business, and for all we know, the upcoming season might see a very competitive Alfa Romeo, which would just make it worse for Giovinazzi.
That being said, the Italian will be switching to Formula E to keep pursuing his racing passion and will remain on as a Ferrari Academy driver, keeping the door open for a future comeback.
- Although there isn’t any form or record of previous races to determine which team will do well, the track layout and recent performances suggest a strong Mercedes show in Qatar.
Given the top-speed advantage the German team have, it will be interesting to see whether Red Bull give Verstappen a new power unit and take an engine penalty, or fight on without it.
Suffice to say, Hamilton and Verstappen will be favourites once again.
- Throughout the season, Ferrari and McLaren have been involved in an epic duel for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, but in the last two races, the Scuderia have begun to build a lead and break away from the Woking-based team. This has been largely due to some misfortune for McLaren but also a serious step forward by Ferrari’s latest power unit.
The Scuderia are favourites again to put on a strong show in Qatar, and with the season coming to an end, a couple of podiums and/or a good bunch of points could see either team run away with that third spot in the championship.
- Another fight that has been as tight as the Ferrari-McLaren one is the Alpine-AlphaTauri one, both of whom are locked on the same number of points.
Although Alpine have had a few unfavourable performances of late, a double points finish in Brazil saw them stay alive in the P5 battle in the Constructors’ Championship.
Between the two teams, one would expect Alpine to go well on a brand new circuit, with their veteran racer Fernando Alonso likely to chip in with a few points, given the Spaniard’s experience and knowledge of adapting to new tracks.
Number of Laps – 57
Circuit Length – 5.380 km
Race Distance – 306.660 km