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F1 2021, Qatar Grand Prix, Losail International Circuit, date, schedule, 2023 ten year deal, human rights, sportswashing

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Qatar will hold its first ever Formula One Grand Prix in November replacing the cancelled Australian GP, organisers announced on Friday.

The race will take place at the Losail International Circuit north of Doha on November 21 and will form the first part of a Middle Eastern ending to the Formula One season as it will be followed by races in Saudi Arabia and the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Qatar has also signed a 10-year deal to host Formula One from 2023.

The Australian GP, traditionally a season-opener, was moved towards the end of the season in a bid to ensure it could go ahead in the light of Covid-19 restrictions. In spite of that, it was cancelled for a second year running.

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“We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula 1 calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023,” said F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix.

“The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and the FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22 race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year and something we can all be proud of.”

The Losail Circuit opened in 2004 and has hosted Moto GP since then, under floodlights which will also be used for the Grand Prix.

In its statement, F1 said it would confirm the venue for the race in Qatar from 2023 onward at a later date, suggesting a possible change from Losail.

It is the latest sporting coup for gas-rich Qatar, which will host the football World Cup in 2022.

The decision has been met with backlash from Amnesty International over human rights issues in Qatar.

A spokesperson for the organisation told Sportsmail in a statement: “It’s no secret that rich countries in the Middle East see top-level sport as a means to rebrand and sportswash their images, and a Grand Prix in Qatar would be more of the same.

‘Shut up!’ – Lando gets feisty on radio | 00:40

“Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling – from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and its criminalisation of same-sex relations.

“Formula One should insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains.”

Formula One told the publication in response that they take their responsibilities ‘very seriously’.

“For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits,” F1 said in a statement.

“Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on rights clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect our responsibilities in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”

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Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen, who will win, points, tracks

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The scene is set for one of F1’s all-time championship battles as the 2021 season enters its final third, starting with the Turkish Grand Prix next week.

Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton already has all the makings of the next Senna vs Prost, Schumacher vs Hill, or Schumacher vs Hakkinen.

The Red Bull and Mercedes aces have traded blows all season, both in terms of wins and on-track incidents that came at Silverstone and Monza.

Now just a measly two championship points separate Hamilton, the seven-time world champion veteran, and Verstappen, the 24-year-old Red Bull prodigy chasing his first.

Here, we take a look at the final seven scheduled races to see who’s best-placed to take home the 2021 crown.

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‘Shut up!’ – Lando gets feisty on radio | 00:40

STATE OF PLAY

Points

Hamilton: 246.5

Verstappen: 244.5

Race wins

Verstappen: Seven

Hamilton: Five

Podiums

Verstappen: 11

Hamilton: 11

Pole positions

Verstappen: Eight

Hamilton: Three

*Verstappen gained two via sprint races, and Hamilton lost one (Silverstone)

DNFs

Verstappen: Two

Hamilton: One

Verstappen crashes into Hamilton at Monza.Source: Getty Images

THE RUN HOME

TURKISH GRAND PRIX

Date: October 10 (11pm AEST)

Previous winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

Date: October 25 (6am AEST)

Previous winner: Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

MEXICAN GRAND PRIX

Date: November 8 (6am AEST)

Previous winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX

Date: November 15 (4am AEST)

Previous winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

QATAR GRAND PRIX

Date: November 21 (time TBC)

Debut race

SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX

Date: December 6 (4.30am AEST)

Debut race

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

Date: December 13 (12.00am AEST)

Previous winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

The remainder of the 2021 season is subject to change with several races in doubt.

A massive challenge for F1 organisers lies ahead, mainly due to coronavirus complications, but also due to construction issues in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia had been locked in to make its F1 debut for the penultimate race of the season but constructors are said to be in a race against time to have the venue complete.

An F1 official said this week under the condition of anonymity that works are being done around the clock in Jeddah with buildings still under construction and cranes and diggers still on site.

September 27: Jeddah Street Circuit has plenty of work left.Source: AFP

Meanwhile, it’s unclear if F1’s Americas swing can be completed with Brazil and Mexico both ‘red list’ countries in the United Kingdom – where seven of 10 teams are based – while the United States is on the amber list.

Texas, where the US Grand Prix is held, is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus with a seven-day case average above 10,000 a day. Mexico City and Sao Paulo’s seven-day averages are less than 2,000.

The Canadian, Japanese, Singapore and Australian Grands Prix have already been cancelled in 2021 due to travel and quarantine complications associated with the pandemic.

A new Qatar Grand Prix will fill Australia’s spot on the calendar on November 21.

DOES THE RUN HOME SUIT MERCEDES, OR RED BULL?

Only two points separate Verstappen and Hamilton.Source: Getty Images

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that the run home doesn’t suit Verstappen any more than it does Hamilton.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agrees, claiming that the remaining tracks don’t point to an obvious advantage for either title contender.

Team bosses have never been eager to claim favouritism. It’s easier to claim underdog status instead of having a target on your back.

Whether Horner or Wolff can be believed is up for debate.

Historically speaking, the run home suits Mercedes who won in Turkey, the US and Mexico at the last time of asking.

That said, two of those wins were back in 2019. And besides, is there any statistic in this F1 era that doesn’t favour Mercedes?

2021 is clearly a different story to the seven seasons that preceded it, with Red Bull in its strongest position since 2013 – before turbo hybrids were introduced.

Red Bull has proven it has the better all-round package this season, which will serve it well in the closing stages.

Verstappen leaves Hamilton trapped | 00:36

The title race wouldn’t be this close if Hamilton didn’t tag Verstappen in Britain, or if the Dutchman wasn’t hit on the opening lap in Hungary.

Power tracks are still something of an Achilles’ heel for Red Bull given Mercedes’ superior speed in a straight line, but most have been already completed.

The Sochi Autodrom, for example, is classed as a power track because of its long straights. Hamilton won there with a little help from a mistake by Lando Norris. Monza is in the same class and Verstappen was lucky to not lose any ground there to Hamilton, who he wiped out at the Turn 1-2 chicane.

From the remaining races, Mexico has long straights and could be classed as a power track, too. Hamilton won in Mexico in 2019, although the track has proven to be an anomaly given Verstappen dominated at the venue in 2018.

Meanwhile, Turkey appears to be a non-negotiable for Hamilton, who was untouchable at the venue in 2020 and is arguably the favourite to win once more.

From there, the ball is expected to shift to Verstappen’s court with the US, Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix likely favouring Red Bull.

Halo saves Hamilton in horror crash | 00:36

While all three tracks have at least two long straights, they are cancelled out by highly technical and flowing sectors that will marginally favour the superior aerodynamic downforce of Verstappen’s Red Bull.

There’s no F1 precedent for Jeddah, although the layout shows a series of sweeping bends and ‘esses’ that again could favour Red Bull. Losail also has a layout that appears to reward greater balance and traction.

As such, Red Bull is favoured at five of the remaining races — United States, Brazil, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi — albeit only slightly.

Mexico shapes as a 50-50 while Turkey is the only track where Mercedes is favourite.

That is despite what Horner had to say after the Russian Grand Prix.

“I don’t think there’s any circuits that stand out as strongly as Russia and Monza,” Horner said.

“For sure Mercedes will be strong in Turkey, they won there last year. But then we start getting to Austin, we should be there or thereabouts, and in Brazil and Mexico we’ve always been strong.

The schedule arguably favours Verstappen more than Hamilton.Source: Getty Images

“We don’t know anything about Qatar, we don’t know anything about Jeddah. And then it’s Abu Dhabi. So you can say it’s 50-50 in what is left on the table, with which favours slightly one team more than the other.”

Wolff said he’s “stopped trying to anticipate” where Mercedes will be strong, and doesn’t predict wide margins between the championship contenders for the rest of the season.

“I doubt that any of the two teams will make massive swings up or down, it’s just about continuing to do the best possible job,” he said.

“But I don’t think either driver or either team can have any comfort in the current situation, because there is just no gap in terms of points.”

WHAT ABOUT MCLAREN’S CHANCES?

Could we see a repeat in 2021?Source: Getty Images

Races at Monza and Sochi left no doubt that McLaren has dramatically improved to the point that it can win Grands Prix again.

For now, however, it needs the right venue and set of circumstances.

Monza, for example, was a perfect aligning of the stars; a low-grip, power track that played into McLaren’s strengths. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Verstappen struggled, and Bottas had a large penalty to serve.

Daniel Ricciardo walked away as the winner and Norris completed the historic one-two.

Two weeks later in Sochi, Norris threatened to make it two wins in a row for McLaren but misjudged track conditions and spun out of the lead with two laps remaining.

Ricciardo ends 1204-day drought at Monza | 05:24

No remaining track is as well suited to McLaren as Monza and, to a lesser extent, Sochi were, but there are still chances for Ricciardo and Norris to perform well.

Mexico is arguably the best chance to ruffle the feathers of Mercedes and Red Bull. The long straights into heavy braking zones in the first sector is somewhat reminiscent of Monza and should suit Ricciardo.

The next best chance is arguably Abu Dhabi given there are three long straights, although the technical nature of sector three will be a big test for McLaren.

Given it’s the final race of the season, however, Ricciardo should be even better equipped for the challenge.

The Australian continues to improve this season. Since the summer break he’s finished fourth twice and won the Italian Grand Prix.

By comparison, Norris — who was dominating the Australian before the Belgian Grand Prix — has come 14th, tenth, second and seventh.

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Red Bull attempted to poach McLaren driver Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Russian Grand Prix

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Red Bull’s driver programme boss Helmut Marko has revealed the team tried to poach McLaren young gun Lando Norris.

The British driver has been vital to McLaren’s resurgence over the past three years, securing five podium finishes since joining the team in 2019.

Norris is currently fourth on the 2021 F1 drivers’ standings with 139 points, narrowly behind Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

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Lando’s classy gesture | 00:30

The 21-year-old has subsequently become one of the sport’s most highly-rated drivers, so it’s no surprise Red Bull was interested in signing him.

Red Bull had been searching for someone to partner superstar Max Verstappen since Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo’s bombshell departure in 2018.

After trialling youngsters Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, Red Bull has settled on the more experienced Sergio Perez, who has enjoyed a relatively successful maiden season with the powerhouse team.

But the Verstappen and Norris pairing is undeniably a mouth-watering concept, and Marko has admitted that he tried to make it happen.

However, as reported by Planet F1, Norris is tied down by a multi-year contract with McLaren.

“We’ve had talks with him, but he’s tied to McLaren for the long term,” Marko told Sport24 auto.

“We remain true to our path.

“I’m proud that we dared to bring Max into Formula 1 at the age of 16.

“He has never made me doubt that our path was the right one. He is always super focused and doesn’t let anything distract him from his goal of winning.

“Norris has caught my eye before. But Max is still at the top of my rankings because he can deliver immediately in all conditions and without a run-up, which he proved again impressively just now in the rain in Sochi. He almost even won the race, he just had to come into the pits one lap earlier.”

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo celebrate their Italian Grand Prix triumph. Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo celebrate their Italian Grand Prix triumph. Photo by Peter Fox/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Norris came unbearably close to a maiden F1 victory last weekend, when a cataclysmic strategic blunder at the Russian Grand Prix left him “heartbroken”.

But the Sochi tragedy is a small blip in what has otherwise been a formidable season for Norris and the McLaren team.

The radically revised regulations for 2022 will potentially mix up the F1 hierarchy next year, and McLaren will hopefully be fighting alongside the competition heavyweights.

The F1 season resumes next weekend with the Turkish Grand Prix, which gets underway at midnight AEDT on Sunday, October 10.

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Jack Miller, Joan Mir, race results, standings, finishing order, video

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Australian Jack Miller was in no mood for Joan Mir’s final lap antics at the Circuit of the Americas.

Miller, fourth overall in the MotoGP standings, served up an almighty spray after a race in which Mir made contact with the Ducati Lenovo Team member on Turn 15; pushing him wide and ultimately costing him sixth place.

Mir finished in seventh, ahead of Miller, before stewards penalised him — giving a furious Miller seventh instead.

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While Marc Marquez won the race, it was Miller’s exchange with Mir, during the cool-down lap, that raised eyebrows.

While audio wasn’t available, Miller could be seen grabbing Mir’s helmet and screaming at the Spanish rider; the two MotoGP stars with a history.

“Like last time in Misano I finished in one position and then a penalty lifted me a position higher – it’s a story you’ve heard before…” Miller wrote in his post-race newsletter.

“I crossed the line eighth at the end but you all saw what happened with Mir on the last lap.

“It was like last time in Misano all over again. I got hit, lost spots to two guys… at Misano he got pushed back a place for track limits, and here it was one place for irresponsible riding.

“Race direction did what they did with him, so there’s not much more to say about it really.

“I was struggling with my front tyre, I tried to protect the line… but you can’t protect when someone runs into the side of you, can you?

“I swear, every time I race with the guy he seems to run into me. It’s not just the last two races either.

“I think there’s better ways you can go about the situation. I was fading at the end of the race, don’t get me wrong, but that didn’t need to happen.”

Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team celebrates with flag the victory.
Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team celebrates with flag the victory.Source: AFP

Marquez reasserted his mastery of the Circuit of the Americas, winning MotoGP’s Grand Prix of the Americas for the seventh time.

Marquez, starting third on the grid, seized the lead at the start and relentlessly powered to victory over championship leader Fabio Quartararo of France.

Marquez never allowed Quartararo a look-in, but the Yamaha rider pushed his lead in the standings to 52 points over Italian Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia, who finished third.

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