F1 will stage its first race in Qatar this weekend after adding the Losail track to the calendar as a replacement for the cancelled Australian Grand Prix. It is also the precursor to a 10-year deal for the Qatar Grand Prix which will start in 2023.
Losail has been a mainstay on the MotoGP calendar since opening in 2004, but has not hosted a major single-seater championship since GP2 Asia raced there in 2009.
The track is expected to require a high downforce set-up due to its technical middle sector, leading to concerns about the amount of overtaking that will be possible.
But Al-Hamad, who serves as the executive director of Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation, felt confident that the lack of track data and the flowing layout would create an exciting on-track spectacle.
“Nobody has any data here, nobody drove here before, so that is going to add a lot,” Al-Hamad told Autosport.
“Every single minute in practice is going to make a difference because they still don’t know what type of set-up they need for all their chassis.
“The strategy is going to be completely different when it comes to tyre wear, because it’s a very fast track, or a flowing track with a couple of opportunities for overtaking.
“I know from a competitive driver point of view that there is a lot of overtaking that is going to be done, against all of the speculation that has been spread, that this is a straight-line kind of circuit, which it’s not.
Losail International Circuit aerial view
“It’s very technical. It needs a lot of downforce. There are a lot of strategies that are going to be involved with the tyre wear here as well.”
In order to prepare the Losail track to host F1, a number of updates have been made in collaboration with the FIA to ensure all safety measures are met and up to the Grade 1 track requirements.
“It was mainly barriers, the TecPros, the locations of the TecPros, and so on,” Al-Hamad said. “That was mainly it. A minor change was the position of the pit entry, it has been changed. It was at the beginning of Turn 16, and now it’s a little bit behind Turn 15.
“For safety purposes, it’s more suitable for motorbikes, and now we made it even safer for the use of Formula 1 or any other big calibre motorsport championship we might host, or I should say, we will host at Losail International Circuit.”
Al-Hamad was hopeful that hosting the F1 race would help put Qatar in contention to bring other major motorsport championships to the state in the future.
“Formula 1 being here is definitely going to attract a lot of attention, and put us back again in the spotlight,” he said. “So there’s a huge possibility that we’re going to host a lot of other motorsports events in the state.”
F1 looks set to move to a newly-built circuit in Qatar when the 10-year contract begins in 2023, taking next year off as the country focuses on hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.