Qatar is set to host its first Formula One grand prix race later this year after the Middle Eastern country reached a long-term agreement on Thursday with the sport's organizers.
After the initial race this year, Qatar will become a regular host starting from 2023 and lasting for at least 10 years.
The inaugural Qatar Grand Prix will take place on November 21 at the Losail International Circuit, a 3.43-mile racetrack located near Qatar's capital of Doha and which normally hosts motorcycle races, including a round of MotoGP.
The race will serve as round 20 of the 2021 F1 season, replacing the Australian Grand Prix which organizers canceled in July due to strict travel restrictions instituted by the Australian government. It will precede the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix which is also a new event on the F1 calendar. A race in Miami will also be added to the calendar starting in 2022.
Although there's been a will to add Qatar to the F1 calendar for more than a decade, there wasn't any suggestion that F1 was prepared to add another Middle Eastern race. According to the organizers, the negotiations only happened after Qatar stepped up to host a race after the cancellation of the Australian race.
"There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed for 10 years,” the organizers said in a statement.
The organizers also said that a permanent home for the Qatar Grand Prix will be announced at a later date, suggesting that future races might not be held at Losail.
For Qatar, the race is yet another way for the country to boost tourism as it looks to diversify its revenues away from the energy sector. The country is also set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the first time the event is being held in the Middle East, as well as a biennial auto show shared with organizers of the annual Geneva International Motor Show.