Formula One has confirmed that Qatar will host its inaugural Grand Prix on November 21.
The 3.4-mile Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar, will host the race that replaces the axed Australian Grand Prix.
Qatar will not host a race in 2022 due to their hosting of the football World Cup but will commence a 10-year deal from 2023 with the aim to have a bespoke track ready by then.
Losail International Circuit in Doha will play host to the first ever Qatar Grand Prix this season
Lewis Hamilton (second left) and Max Verstappen (far left) will take their title fight to Doha
F1 had been targeting a record 23 races but due to a number of cancellations have accepted a revised calendar of 22 races, which will see the season finish with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The Gulf state has faced intense scrutiny in recent years from human rights organisations over the living and working conditions of migrant workers and the award of a Grand Prix has angered some fans.
Supporters are more familiar with the Losail circuit being used for MotoGP but it will now play host to its first F1 race.
Qatar, who will controversially host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, have been pushing to host a Grand Prix since 2015. Attempts then to host a Grand Prix were vetoed by Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
The conclusion to the 2021 calendar has drawn plenty of criticism, particularly surrounding the penultimate race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Organisers of the Jeddah street circuit event signed a £500million 10-year deal last year.
Human rights groups have condemned the race with the country’s human rights record described by Amnesty International as ‘heinous’ back in November.
The FIA, the governing body, are a strictly non-political organisation, so take no position on Saudi Arabia’s restrictive culture, just as do not involve themselves in the internal affairs of other host countries.
The 3.4-mile circuit is typically used for MotoGP but will now host Formula 1 on November 21
REVISED F1 CALENDAR
October 10 – Turkey (Istanbul Park)
October 24 – USA (Austin)
November 7 – Mexico (Mexico City)
November 14 – Brazil (Interlagos)
November 21 – Qatar (Doha)
December 5 – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah)
December 12 – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)
But Liberty Media, the sport’s owners, welcomed the Saudi race, which follows Aramco, the state-owned oil giant company, having already concluding a global sponsorship deal with F1 that started last season.
A spokesman for Liberty last year said: ‘For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including bringing economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.
‘We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.’
Quizzed on criticism of the nation last year, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi sports minister, told Sportsmail: ‘Saudi Arabia has been criticised for being closed off from the world but now we are opening up. We make sure we work to international guidelines. Sport is part of a strategy we have to deliver for the good of the people of the country.
‘Everyone will be welcome to the race. F1 has a big following in the kingdom and this builds on that momentum.
‘We are giving visas for tourism and so on, so we hope people will have a better understanding of Saudi Arabia in the future. Sport has a role to play in our development, getting people active and exposing them to several sports.’
The addition of Qatar, which precedes Saudi Arabia, arrives as annoyance for Russia.
Russia, who hosted the previous round of racing in Sochi, had been keen to be given a second race following race cancellations in Australia, Singapore, Canada, Japan and China.
‘This year, we discussed holding a second race at Sochi,’ said Russian GP race promoter Alexey Titov, quoted by Russian media outlet Championat.
‘Such discussions were held against the backdrop of changes in the calendar due to the coronavirus. I was a little disappointed that there would not be a second race. Then, in 2022, we would have held the 10th grand prix at Sochi which would have added a degree of completeness to the event. But that’s the way it is.’