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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Qatar’s Losail Circuit gets to work with modifications ahead of first F1 Grand Prix race

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The Losail International Circuit is being revamped ahead of the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix.

Qatar’s Losail International circuit will be revamped in the lead up to the country’s first-ever F1 Grand Prix (GP) race in November, an official source confirmed. 

The 8,000 capacity, 16-turn circuit requires a work to be completed in a short timeframe with the pit area revamp being the biggest project of its kind. 

Modification will be mainly focused in the pit lane area, “in particular at the entrance curve, where a protection made of guardrails, tyres and nets will be created that will start from about 30 meters before,” the Inspector for Security of the Federation, Giuseppe Muscioni told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

New protection will also be installed “in the box-wall area with special nets or anti-debris protection structures (always nets in high-strength steel rings , ed),” the FIA official added.

Internal structures and the media centre will also be updated. The measures are set to prevent disassembled parts of the cars from flying into the pit lane in case of an accident, he noted. 

Read also: Confirmed! Qatar to host its first ever F1 Grand Prix race

“This will avoid the risk that cars entering after going through Turn 15, either due to a tyre problem or an incorrect speed, could dangerously re-enter the track after Turn 16, causing accidents.”

The Losail International Circuit regularly hosts MotoGP (motorbikes), and according to experts needs some modifications to be suitable for the F1 race. 

The race was supposed to take place in Australia but was then moved to Qatar after concerns were raised due to the ongoing pandemic, leading to a number of cancellations.

Among these was the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, which was cancelled for the second year in a row. Earlier, the Australian, Singaporean, Canadian and Chinese races were also cancelled for health safety reasons.

Muscioni confirmed “an open discussion with the FIM [Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme]” is ongoing regarding the kerbs, with focus on the type of kerb that is “most suitable for a circuit like the one in Qatar.”

He explained that “it is possible to install type kerbs ‘Misano’, 1.5 meters wide plus another 50 cm additional, applied for the first time by Fim to Marco Simoncelli.”

Regarding the barriers, Muscioni said ‘TecPro’ barriers will be “at 9, 11 and 13, which will be joined to a row of tyres.”

The TecPro is a semi-metallic body filled with a polyethylene foam in a metal core, containing interspaces and rows of tyres inside of it. 

For other corners with lower risk accidents, tyre barriers will be put in place, “all protected by conveyor belts to better distribute the load between the tyres, absorbing and distributing the energy better after the crash,” he emphasised.

Formula 1 race director Michael Masi confirmed that the work is nearing completion, and he is planning to visit ahead of the event on 22-24 October.

“What used to be the pit lane for the bikes will change completely, the work is almost finished,” Masi was quoted by Formulapassion.it.

“I’ll be here before the race in Austin to check it out, even though all the work has been completed,” he said.

“The crash barriers will also be revised, with the addition of TecPro tyres all along the track, and the pit lane entrance will be wider than it is now. There will of course be escape routes, which already exist as a primary safety condition for the bikes.”

He noted that the short timeframe pose a challenge, but “the real problem was the entrance to the pit lane, since the garages and the paddock were already up to standard.”

However, he said despite that, the Losail International circuit “will be a very good venue for this year.”

MotoGP concerns

The Gulf state will be organising races under a 10-year-long signed agreement with F1.

However, MotoGP drivers, including Aleix Espargaro and Franco Morbidelli, have been vocal against the idea of Qatar hosting races due to the potential damage it could do to the track.

In addition, FIA’s revamping plans to the circuit will affect MotoGP’s pit lanes, although the modifications will make it suitable for other motorsports.

“I love Qatar, I love the circuit, and Formula 1 cars destroy everything with their downforce. Let’s see what happens,” the rider said.

“I’m happy for the Qatari people because they’ll be able to enjoy MotoGP and F1, which is fantastic, but regarding the track it is very flat and very good right now, and I hope that they won’t destroy it so much.”

Morbidelli also expressed dissatisfaction with the announcement of Qatar hosting the F1 race at the MotoGP circuit.

“The first thing I thought was: there will be more bumps,” the Italian indicates, although he also sees advantages in it. “It’s nice to see Formula 1 on the same slopes we drive on. It’s impressive.”

“I love Formula 1 immensely, I always follow it. It’s impressive to see how fast they take the same corners with the race cars,” Morbidelli said.

With Qatar filling the slot left by the cancellation of the Australian GP,  the F1 season will end with a Middle Eastern run, with Saudi Arabia’s first race on December 5 and Abu Dhabi on December 12.


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