Round 18 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship takes place this weekend in Qatar, and it could potentially see Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen secure his third title. He needs to end the weekend with a gap of at least 146 points over teammate Sergio Perez. Currently the gap stands at 177 points.
The Qatar Grand Prix was first held in 2021 as a replacement for a canceled Australian Grand Prix, and from 2023 it becomes a permanent fixture on the calendar. The race takes place at the Losail International Circuit which is located on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital city of Doha, and features a ring of artificial grass designed to keep sand from piling up on the track surface.
The track stretches 3.43 miles and normally plays host to motorcycle races, including a round of MotoGP. As a result, it features a fast and flowing nature, with the focus very much on medium and high-speed corners. There are 16 corners in total (10 right-handers and six left-handers) and the main straight is almost a fifth of a lap, with the end of this straight being the only DRS zone.
The Losail International Circuit was opened in 2004, and its track surface dates back to that date, making it one of the most abrasive on the calendar. As a result, Pirelli has nominated its hardest compounds: the C1 as the white hard, the C2 as the yellow medium, and the C3 as the red soft.
Due to the high temperatures in Qatar, the race is held at night. This means the evolution of track temperature over the course of the race is very different compared to a regular afternoon race, with the potential for a big drop-off as the race goes on. Looking at the forecast, we should be in for fine weather throughout the weekend.
This year’s Qatar Grand Prix will feature the Sprint race in addition to the main race, which we’ve previously seen at rounds in Azerbaijan, Austria, and Belgium. This season, the Sprint race has been made a standalone event rather than the qualifier for the main race, as was previously the case. It still has championship points on the table for both drivers and teams, however.
The Sprint race takes place on Saturday, with the normal qualifying session moved up to Friday. The main race takes place on Sunday.
Going into the weekend, Verstappen leads the 2023 Drivers’ Championship with 400 points. Perez is second with 223 points and Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Lewis Hamilton is third with 190 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull was named the title winner at the previous round in Japan thanks to its 623 points. Mercedes is second with 305 points and Ferrari is third with 285 points. The previous winner in Qatar was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.
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