Formula One

Qatar GP track layout, turns and DRS zones analysed

F1 Qatar GP layout Losail International Circuit
Circuit atmosphere – kerb detail. 05.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 18, Qatar Grand Prix, Doha, Qatar, Preparation Day. –, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images – Photo by Icon sport

F1 heads over to Qatar for the final round of the second Asian leg. Back in the schedule following a one-year absence because of the FIFA World Cup, the Losail International Circuit will host its second-ever F1 Grand Prix. Join us for a lap around the fast F1 Qatar layout, and don’t forget to take a look at the F1 predictions and odds for the race.

Qatar GP layout: An interesting one from the drivers’ perspective, but not as fun from the fans’ point of view

Before we get started on this tour around the very fast Losail International Circuit, we need some context. The track was originally built as a MotoGP circuit, and it has been a mainstay in the calendar since 2004.

While Losail did host a pair of GP2 Asia and WTCC rounds, car racing wasn’t really its cup of tea. Because of this, Losail’s layout was naturally designed with motorcycles, and not racing cars, in mind. And motorcycle tracks are notoriously different from racetracks designed for car racing, featuring wide, long radius corners and plenty of double sweepers.

The Qatar Grand Prix joined the schedule as an emergency replacement round in 2021, with Losail being the only available track. In reality, the race wasn’t supposed to be part of the schedule until 2023, which would mark the first of a 10-year deal. And the original plans had a new, purpose-built track as the first option. However, that never really came to fruition, and so F1 finds itself back at the Losail International Circuit after two years.

And now, let’s get started on our tour around the 16-turn, 5.419 km F1 Qatar layout.

The lap starts down the long, 1.068 km front straight. Drivers then go light on the brakes for the very fast turn 1, a long right-hander that is followed by a short straight that leads to turn 2 – a fast, long radius left-hander. The cars then take turn 3, a short left sweeper, completely flat out.

After another straight, the drivers just ease off the throttle to take the neck-breaking fast 4-5 complex, two back-to-back right-hand sweepers. Following another short straight, drivers go heavy on the brakes for turn 6, a tight right-hander. This is the only corner that asks a bit more out of the brakes, and will likely be the only time that drivers will need to go below fourth gear under green flag conditions.

From turn 6, the cars go down another short straight, which leads to turn 7: another long radius, fast right-hander. Exiting turn 6, the cars head straight to the 8-9 esses, a fast left-right sequence that is taken flat out.

Another short straight connects turn 9 to turn 10, a medium speed left-hander that requires a light tap on the brakes. Drivers then take turn 11, a short left-hand sweeper, flat out.

Next comes what is probably the best section of the track – the turns 12, 13 and 14 complex. This is a sequence of three right-hand sweepers that the cars are able to take flat out. The complex bears similarities to Austin’s 16-18 complex, and to Istanbul’s iconic turn 8 – or Misano’s turns 11, 12 and 13 for MotoGP and sportscar racing fans.

From turn 14, drivers just ease off the throttle in seventh gear to take turn 15. Taken on the very edge of the cars’ grip, 15 is a very challenging left-hander that will require every last ounce of downforce.

Following another short straight, the cars head on to the final corner. Turn 16 is a short, medium speed right-hander that leads back to the main straight. Most drivers will go for a late entry, trying to carry as much speed out of the corner as possible.

With plenty of wide radius, high speed corners, the Qatar F1 layout takes a lot out of the tyres. Even on a resurfaced track for 2023, expect tyre wear to be a major factor this year.

Losail International Circuit DRS zones: Only one zone, few overtaking opportunities

While Losail is an interesting track from the drivers’ perspective, with plenty of fast corners, its layout doesn’t provide too many overtaking opportunities. The wide-radius, high speed turns do not offer any real chances to pass under braking, or to go side-by-side. 3

This issue will be further compounded by the lack of DRS zones. The Losail Circuit only features one DRS zone, located on the main straight. Its detection spot is located just past turn 16, giving the chasing car a massive tow down one of the longest straights in F1.

Realistically, completing the move just before turn 1 with DRS’s help is the only genuine overtaking opportunity around the Losail track. The other option would be braving a move into turn 6, but following the leading car through the 4-5 complex in order to set up a move is borderline impossible.

Losail racing history

2021Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton

As mentioned early, Qatar has only hosted one F1 Grand Prix, as a contingency plan in 2021. The first ever Qatar GP was a replacement round for the canceled Australian Grand Prix.

The race became notorious for the lack of on-track action, even in the thick of the Verstappen-Hamilton title fight. The Mercedes driver scored a dominant pole position on Saturday, while his championship rival started down in seventh for disrespecting a yellow flag in qualifying. Verstappen quickly made his way up to second, but the eventual champion did not have enough pace to close the gap to Hamilton.

In the end, Hamilton scored a runaway victory, with over 25 seconds in hand over Verstappen. Despite Pirelli taking the hardest compounds available, the race still had quite a few punctures, with the high speed and long turns placing the rubber under a lot of stress.

What lies ahead for 2023

As another high speed track, Losail will demand a lot out of the cars’ downforce. Combined with one of the longest straights in the schedule, the track will be right down Red Bull’s alley. Expect Verstappen to have another dominant weekend, which will likely see the Dutchman wrap up the title on Saturday.

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