What the Qatar Grand Prix brings to the Formula One race calendar

Virgin Radio

28 Feb 2024, 15:30

Images from the 2023 Qatar Formula One Grand Prix

Credit: Getty

Arriving in a time of need during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Qatar Grand Prix is here to stay, and you won’t see any fans of good racing complaining. 

Qatar has established itself as one of the most exciting destinations for mega-sporting events - having hosted football's AFC Asian Cup, Fifa World Cup AND Fifa Club World Cup - and motor sport is perfectly suited to this thrilling environment. At the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix back in 2021, Qatar played its part in the epic Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen title bout, and gave us even more entertainment in 2023. 

Now a permanent fixture for the next decade at least, a circuit that was initially designed for MotoGP and motorbikes is presenting a rather unique challenge. 

Wide and constant switching turns allow wiley racers like Fernando Alonso to treat the 5.419km Lusail International Circuit like a chess board, forfeiting certain corners to exploit others, setting up a number of surprising results. 

In 2021 Alonso returned to the podium for the first time in seven years, while 2023 saw the emergence of a future world champion when Oscar Piastri won the sprint race. 

The heroics of McLaren’s new star meant that Qatar was one of only two circuits to give us a non-Red Bull race-winner last season - a great sign of things to come. 

Last year’s race also saw one of the moments of the season when Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collided at turn one, leaving the elder Brit in the gravel, and perhaps moving his thoughts towards Ferrari. 

A street and river in Qatar

Credit: Visit Qatar

Qatar is the undiscovered pearl of the Middle East that offers you more emotional experiences. Feel welcomed by the friendly locals, keen to share the country they’re so proud of. Feel the warmth of its beaches, the peacefulness of its natural wonders, the awe of its world-class architecture, the exhilaration of its action adventures and the fascination of its culture.

Speaking of action adventures, the Qatar Grand Prix will be the penultimate race in 2024, and will give fans one of their final glimpses of F1’s most successful team and driver partnership. 

Hamilton, with his record 103 race wins and joint-record seven world championships, has been with Mercedes in some form since the age of 13. 

He joined the McLaren Mercedes driver programme in 1998, debuted with the team in 2007, won his first championship in 2008, and then switched to Mercedes in 2013 shortly after they went solo. 

Since then record after record has been smashed, with Mercedes winning eight constructors titles - alongside Hamilton’s six with the team. 

Looking set to finish his career with the Silver Arrows, the 39-year-old stunned the world of sport on January 1 by announcing that he will be moving to Ferrari in 2025. 

The deal, which unites F1’s most successful team and driver will undoubtedly be the plotline to the season, with anticipation over finally seeing Hamilton in red reaching fever-pitch by Qatar. 

Before that, though, the question will be if he can still do any damage in silver and black.

Red Bull and Max Verstappen utterly dominated F1 in 2023, winning all but one race, while Verstappen won a record 19 out of 22 Grand Prix on his way to becoming a three-time champion.

This season the chasing pack are near-certain to catch up with the stabilising of rule changes, and the grid should close up as the season progresses, and certainly in time for Qatar. 

Fairmont and Raffles hotel in Qatar

Credit: Visit Qatar

Put on pause during 2022 as focus switched to the World Cup, Formula 1 fans are set to benefit from the extensive work around Lusail. 

Having hosted Argentina’s epic World Cup shoot-out win over France, the city is now well-equipped for the future of F1, with five star hotels aplenty, including the world famous Raffles and Fairmont in Doha. 

On top of that, the November 29 to December 1 date for this year’s race will give traveling fans the chance to enjoy the glam in relatively temperatures for the region, with highs in the mid 20s, and that’s without even mentioning world class experiences such as golf, sandboarding and 4x4 driving on offer.