Formula 1, announced, Thursday, that it will race in Qatar on November 21, completing the only date that was still open in the 2021 class championship. Incidentally, the country signed a 10-year contract with the class, starting in 2023. The addition of this stage will lead in the Middle East , with its start at dusk, the weekend after the São Paulo GP, will bring a major logistical task challenging for this class, and is directly linked to the travel restrictions that Brazil continues to face due to the pandemic.
Currently, of the seven countries that will host Formula 1 races this year, only two are on the UK’s red list: Mexico and Brazil. This means that upon return from these countries, those living in England must be placed in quarantine, in a hotel designated by the government, for a period of 10 days. With seven of the 10 teams in the category based on British soil, as well as running commercial rights holders Liberty Media, ultimately British government rules are very important to the calendar.
In order not to miss the Mexican and Brazilian stages, Formula 1 put them in sequence, with the Mexican Grand Prix on November 8 and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on the 14th. For the British quarantine escape plan to succeed, it will be necessary to obtain a third step in the sequence. After months of studying various possibilities, an agreement was reached with the government of Qatar.
Thus, the professionals in the category travel from the last days of October, depending on their role (those who set up garages go before other team members, for example) and only come home after serving 10 days outside Brazil, i.e. after Qatar has played the GP.
The teams tried to stop this triple round, due to the great wear and tear of their staff in the final stage of the tournament, but the financial loss would be too great. Calculating the fees that Mexico City and Sao Paulo pay together to receive the races annually, the values are in the $50 million range.
The latest pending confirmation relates to a request for exemption from the quarantine to which anyone who has transited through the UK in the last 14 days upon entry into Brazil is subject to. Throughout the championship, other countries had similar restrictions to the British, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Russia, and these races can only be held because the exemption was granted because it is a sporting event in which there is strict control of the epidemic.
To ensure these stages even with both countries on the British Red List, the logistical effort will be significant: equipment arrives via three different shipments by sea (one for the US and Mexico stages, one for Brazil and one for the rest), while cars and more valuable parts travel by air, They are packed on race night to be shipped out as quickly as possible. That’s because the cars should be ready for inspection the following Thursday.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Formula 1 race has come out of Brazil to stage a stage in the Middle East the following weekend: it was in 2010, when the class was held on November 7 in Sao Paulo and on November 14 in Abu Dhabi. At the time, there was a loading delay, with the pieces arriving before the first free practice Friday, but the stage (including the championship decision) played normally.
After the Qatar race, F1 will hold two more races in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, on December 5, and in Abu Dhabi, on December 12.
The ‘new’ Grand Prix resulted in good races
At least for the fans, there is a silver lining to all this effort: Formula 1 has had to be creative over the past two seasons to get to its calendar in the midst of the pandemic.
In 2020, the class had 17 practicing players until they began their calendar in July, adding tracks that had not, for a long time, been part of the tournament (such as Imola, Turkey and the Nürburgring), and three newcomers (Portugal, Sakhir and Mugello).
The recipe worked. Most of these competitions were exciting, which made fans celebrate, this year, when Imola, Portugal and Turkey, once again ended up as substitutes. The race in Istanbul, in fact, is next in a championship that has been disputed between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The Englishman goes to the sixteenth stage, on the tenth of October, with a difference of only two points from his opponent.
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