Losail returns to host Formula 1 after the 2021 edition but with a completely redesigned track. That’s why, for Pirelli, it will be a sort of second debut on the Qatar circuit.
This weekend, Formula 1 takes center stage again with the second edition of the Qatar Grand Prix. On the Losail circuit, Pirelli – the exclusive tire supplier of Formula 1 – will bring the following tire compounds:
– Pirelli PZero White Hard C1
– Pirelli PZero Yellow Medium C2
– Pirelli PZero Red Soft C3
It’s worth noting that the Pirelli 2023 range ranges from C0, the hardest compound, to C5, the softest, making it one of the hardest possible choices.
Tire Activity at the Track
Alongside the recent resurfacing, Lusail Circuit’s facilities have seen a significant revamp. Originally tailored for MotoGP events, the pit garages have undergone expansion, both in size and number. Moreover, a fresh race control hub and a media center have been meticulously constructed.
The sole prior Qatar Grand Prix was claimed by Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes ace, commencing from pole position, clinched victory ahead of Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, who also secured the fastest lap, with Fernando Alonso, then driving for Alpine, trailing behind.
Two years ago, spectators witnessed an array of diverse race strategies. Half of the drivers embarked on Soft tires at the start, while the remainder opted for Mediums, leading to a range of pit stop strategies, varying from one to three. Lewis Hamilton clinched victory with two pit stops, switching twice to Mediums and later to Hards during the final stint.
In Doha, the Grand Prix unfolds under the night sky, with qualifying and the main race commencing at 8:00 PM local time. On Saturday, the Sprint Shootout is scheduled for 4:00 PM, followed by the Sprint race at 8:30 PM. The absence of additional support races means the track’s surface will not undergo the usual rubber buildup observed with other series.
Despite the green landscaping surrounding the circuit, the desert sand has often made its presence felt, considerably impacting the evolving track conditions, especially given the fresh asphalt.
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Notably, Qatar experiences high air temperatures during this period of the year. In the week leading up to the Grand Prix, daytime highs nearly reached 40°C. Nevertheless, the altered track session timings relative to 2021 are expected to result in more significant temperature fluctuations than previously recorded two years ago.
Qatar Grand Prix: Mario Isola’s Analysis
Mario Isola, Head of Motorsport at Pirelli, commented on the characteristics of the Losail circuit: “Formula 1 returns to Qatar two years after its debut in 2021. In a way, this weekend’s race is almost like a debut, both because the current cars are very different from those used two years ago and because the Lusail International Circuit has been completely resurfaced, along with modifications to the curbs. On paper, the features of the track have remained unchanged – a main straight just over a kilometer long and 16 corners – but it’s clear that the changes made in these two years make the data collected in the first edition of this Grand Prix relatively significant.”
“In terms of tire demands, Losail is a highly challenging circuit, comparable to Silverstone and Suzuka: it is not a coincidence that the trio of compounds chosen for this race is the same, namely C1-C2-C3. There are various types of corners, mostly of medium and high speed. The sequence of corners between 12 and 14 is quite reminiscent of Turn 8 at the Istanbul Circuit, one of the most demanding corners for tires in recent Formula 1 history and one of the key points for achieving a good lap time. The fact that eleven out of the 16 corners are right-handers particularly stresses the left side of the car, especially the front angle, but the energy levels recorded on the tires in 2021 remained fairly well balanced between the two axes.”
To make the Qatar Grand Prix even more challenging for us, the teams and the drivers, this weekend will see the return of the Sprint format. There will only be one hour of free practice available on Friday to determine the setup and evaluate tire performance over the long run, and it will take place when the sun is still heating the track, while qualifying and the two races will be held at night. There are, therefore, all the elements for an interesting weekend, and who knows, it might bring some surprises: those who can adapt better and faster to the track could gain a significant advantage.”
Minimum Starting Pressures (slick tires)
Front: 25.0 psi
Rear: 21.5 psi