2021 F1 preview: Qatar Grand Prix
Sean Clark previews the third-to-last race of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the debut of the Qatar Grand Prix
In a year full of twists and turns, the 2021 Formula 1 season has one final chapter left, a trilogy in the Middle East to decide the driver’s and constructor’s championships.
Sunday marks the first of the three races in the Middle East to end the season. Qatar enters the F1 scene with the debut of its respective grand prix at the Losail International Circuit.
The track spans 3.43 miles with the race going around the circuit 57 times. There is one main straightaway, acting as the lone DRS zone.
Another edition to the Max Verstappen-Lewis Hamilton title battle will commence at Qatar.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 14 points, but Mercedes leads Red Bull Racing by 11 for the constructor’s championship.
Last week’s race at Interlagos, Brazil provided another spicy edition to the battle while giving Hamilton momentum for the final stretch run.
Hamilton overcame penalties costing him 25 combined places, passing Verstappen late in the race to pick up a much-needed victory.
With a new power unit, Hamilton had the fastest car at Brazil. This trend has carried over into Qatar as the seven-time champion earned pole during qualifying.
For the eighth time in 2021, Verstappen and Hamilton will start on the front row.
Valtteri Bottas starts third as he sits 25 points over Red Bull’s second driver, Sergio Perez in the driver’s championship standings. Perez will start the Qatar Grand Prix in 11th place after missing Q3.
Ferrari, with a string of consistent results since the Russian Grand Prix, has pulled away from McLaren for third-place in the constructor’s standings. Aside from Daniel Ricciardo’s fifth-place result at Circuit of the Americas, McLaren have not gained a top-five finish in the last four races.
Charles Leclerc alone has finished in the top five in each of the last four races while Carlos Sainz has finished no lower than eighth for Ferrari. With these consistent performances, Ferrari leads McLaren by 31.5 points.
Both Leclerc and Ricciardo missed Q3 (will start 13th and 14th respectively) while Norris and Sainz will roll out in sixth and seventh place respectively.
AlphaTauri and Alpine are tied for fifth in the constructor’s standings. Fernando Alonso put in his best qualifying result (fifth), since the Turkish Grand Prix.
Pierre Gasly will line up in fourth place for the fourth time in 2021. The AlphaTauri product will look to finish in the top four for the second time in three races (finished fourth at Mexico City).
Their teammates, Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda, will start ninth and eighth respectively.
Sebastian Vettel rounds out the top 10.
If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the Qatar Grand Prix will begin at 9:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on ESPN2.