Dubai: Formula One has made rapid growth in the Middle East. Four races were marked for the 2023 season that has 23 races in the schedule. With Bahrain and Saudi Arabia successfully opening the F1 calendar this year, Qatar Grand Prix put on a fine show on its return to F1 last weekend at the Lusail International Circuit (LIC), which has undergone extensive transformations. Abu Dhabi will be hosting the final race at the Yas Marina Circuit in November.
The Qatar GP race weekend turned out to be extra special with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen emerging the F1 World champion for the third time after finishing second in the Saturday’s Sprint race. The Dutch’s love for Middle East continues after having won his maiden title in Abu Dhabi, edging out seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the final lap.
“It was an incredible moment, not just from a motorsports perspective but also for Qatar and, by extension, the Middle East. Verstappen being named world champion this weekend, in Qatar, means that the eyes of the world will continue to be on LIC and its state-of-the-art, industry-leading new facilities,” Amro Al Hamad, CEO, Lusail International Circuit, told Gulf News.
“At LIC, our 10-year agreement with F1 marks the beginning of an exciting and transformative decade for motorsports, not only for Qatar but for the entire region. We are delighted to share the tournament with our cherished neighbours in the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and it has been wonderful to watch how quickly the sport has grown across the region. Each of these races bring something unique to the table, and we are very supportive of each other.
“From F1 to Fifa, the world has well and truly recognised the vast untapped potential that the Middle East has to offer in terms of hosting sporting mega events. It is genuinely exciting to witness how quickly the region is finding its place on the cultural and sporting maps,” Al Hamad added.
A lot of has gone into revamping the circuit and Al Hamad believes one needs a great deal of foresight and preparation to ensure things are done maintaining the high standards, particularly from the safety perspective. “LIC is the only circuit in the region that hosts both MotoGP and F1. LIC’s uniquely high speed, free-flowing track can also be tough on tyres, and drivers experience very high g-forces.
“The circuit has been awarded the highest licence levels and it is of vital importance to us that we constantly enhance the experience we offer to drivers and fans. We are committed to maintaining the highest possible standards across all our operations,” the CEO said.
Al Hamad said on the sidelines of such high-profile events there has been a lot of focus on developing local drivers providing them ample opportunities to grow. “As with all sports in Qatar, the future is bright, and the choices are endless for aspiring racing drivers. LIC continues to provide opportunities for Qatar’s youth to visit the track and to be inspired by current drivers. This is backed by a solid academic framework through the likes of the Qatar Motorsports Academy (QMA), founded by Qatar Motor & Motorcycles Federation (QMMF).”
Detailing about the future plans at the circuit, he said: “MotoGP is on the horizon (November 16 — 19), which we are incredibly excited to host. We have also recently announced that the World Endurance Championship (WEC) will debut in Qatar as “Qatar 1812” from 2024 to 2029, meaning that three of the world’s pinnacle motorsport events will now take place at our circuit.”