Around the time of the announcement revealing Qatar’s shock debut on the F1 calendar, the Losail circuit was heralded as a ready to go facility for Formula 1 to utilise if the championship so required an emergency event in Qatar.
This was the one of the reasons Formula 1 began serious talks with the country over “helping” the sport deliver its promise of a 23 race season in 2021.
Of course these talks soon escalated to a 10 year deal being signed with the nation for a place on the most prestigious calendar in global motorsport.
Qatar and specifically the Losail circuit is no stranger to a motor racing world championship as the host of MotoGP’s Qatar Grand Prix since 2004 – the same season the first ever F1 race in the Middle East took place in Bahrain.
At a glance the safety standards are more than adequate for modern F1, and so are the facilities in the pit lane and the paddock.
However a bone of contention with the FIA was the pit entry, beginning very quickly after the final corner. Not a problem for MotoGP, or even F2 and F3 cars – the likes of which have both raced at the circuit in the past.
The sudden nature of the entry and how that would make the speed and angle required through the final corner so vastly different to drivers around you that weren’t intending on pitting, meant the FIA decided it needed a complete revision.
Now, the pit entry begins a fair distance prior to the final corner with what images show to be a fairly tight entry between barriers and a relatively difficult angle of approach.
The new section of pit entry between this point and the start of the actual pit lane features a corner said to be around 70-degrees, but one that bizarrely will have to be taken as fast as the driver’s dare take it.
This is because the pit limiter zone only begins after that corner, unlike the likes of Silverstone and Russia. The approach speed to this sharp and narrow corner featuring zero notable run-off will be hugely high unless the initial entry point slows the cars down sufficiently.
At other areas of the track, new kerbs have been installed on various corner exits as the completely flat and smooth kerbs installed for motorcycle racing would certainly entice a plethora of track limits violations in an F1 car.
An array of new tecpro barriers (the modern version of a tyre barrier) have been installed in places deemed necessary thanks to the much higher weight of an F1 car and the inertia they carry. Motorbikes often won’t make the barrier because of the gravel.
It will certainly be an interesting Friday in Qatar, with teams needing to quickly found out the impact of the changes in the characteristics of the circuit and their cars between day running and the night – the race should be a twilight event.
The race was only formally announced in September – giving the team’s a fair amount of preparation to do and overcome in a fairly small window. Carlos Sainz has even joked that half of the viewers of MotoGP onboards posted to YouTube from the Losail circuit are from F1 teams.