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OPINION: Qatar Does Not Deserve a Spot on the F1 Calendar

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Written by Llinos Jones, Edited by Meghana Sree

2023 Qatar circuit, credits- Formula One

Being one of the newer circuits in Formula One, only being added in 2021, we’ve only seen two races on the Lusail International Circuit, and with a ten year contract we’re going to see more. But already a burning question is being asked – should it stay or should it go?

So far the location has been nothing but trouble, with the track being harsh on the tyres causing their degradation at a rapid pace, and the heat conditions that are arduous on the drivers.

The list of incidents in this year’s race alone highlights the liability of the race, with Logan Sargeant retiring due to feeling ill, Esteban Ocon throwing up in his helmet, Alex Albon struggling to get out of his car post-race, Lance Stroll making his way to an ambulance straight after the final laps, Fernando Alonso’s seat heating up, Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri being too exhausted to even stand up in the cool down room, drivers losing vision around the high speed corners, and a few of the drivers passing out due to the heat.

In light of this exhaustive list of incidents, questions were being raised by fans like myself. Why was this race allowed to take place? And what can be done to avoid this in the future? The answer to the latter has already been given, with the Qatar Grand Prix being moved forward by six weeks, meaning it will take place from 29th November to 1st December, when the conditions are slightly cooler and more suitable.

But is it enough? In my opinion, no, it isn’t. These drivers put everything on the line as it is, and it is unacceptable that they are made to race in those conditions, where twenty athletes at the top of their form become so ill that they’re unable to focus, and we all know that being focused is crucial in this sport, where even one slight wrong move can have catastrophic results. At the end of the day, these drivers are normal human beings just like the rest of us, and they’re not invincible against the conditions they were subjected to at Qatar.

Alongside its brutality on the drivers, the circuit is also unforgiving on tyres. The track’s surface made the degradation rate of the tyres rapidly accelerate, leading the FIA to enforce an unheard of mandatory three-stop rule due to their concern for the safety due to tyre wear. Drivers weren’t allowed stints longer than 18 laps.

Circling back to the question of whether Qatar should stay on the Calendar for the next decade, I don’t think it should. The combination of the danger to the drivers’ lives, and the added hassle of the tyre degradation making the race far less enjoyable than it should be indicates that the Qatar Grand Prix’s slot should be given to other better circuits around the world. I’m glad that the FIA have taken a step back to evaluate the race and are considering making changes to the race in order to avoid such a dangerous situation playing out in the future.

Their statement on 9th October read: “The safe operation of the cars is, at all times, the responsibility of the Competitors, however as with other matters relating to safety such as circuit infrastructure and car safety requirements, the FIA will take all reasonable measures to establish and communicate acceptable parameters in which Competitions are held.”

Image Credits - XPB Images


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