Alpine’s Esteban Ocon has described this weekend’s inaugural trip to Losail International Circuit for 2021 Qatar Grand Prix as an adventure “into the unknown” as the race makes its F1 debut.
Qatar will become the 33rd different country to host a Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, yet is more traditionally known for hosting motorcycle racing like the three MotoGP classes and World Superbikes despite having hosted GP2 Asia and World Touring Car Championship in the past.
Ocon therefore is excited heading into the weekend because every driver except Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (previously drove in GP2 Asia) is in the same boat, as he explained: “Like all the drivers on the grid, we’re heading into the unknown in Qatar as it’s a place Formula 1 has never raced at.”
The one-time race winner though has watched previous MotoGP races at Losail so will “know some bits of information about the track like the long straight and sweeping corners.”, which he hopes will help him as he anticipates “quite similar characteristics to Bahrain” like dusty track surface and night racing.
Ocon also admitted that he is relishing the “fun challenge” prospect of the next two races due to the increased levelness of the playing field, as he added: “We’re all in the same position as no one has driven the track, and that’s the challenge we face at the next two races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”
Fernando Alonso meanwhile is keeping an “open minded” approach heading into the weekend and has spoken to Alpine’s Racing Director, Davide Brivio about Losail due to Brivio’s extensive experience of the circuit due to his time in MotoGP with Yamaha and Suzuki.
Brivio added that this weekend will be an “interesting” experience for him to see how F1 cars handle Losail’s track layout, having previously visited every year since 2004 in MotoGP for test events as well as race weekends.
Explaining what he believes fans can expect, the Italian added: “It’s a nice circuit, which has a little bit of everything. There’s the long straight at almost 1km in length and possibly an overtaking opportunity into Turn 1. After that there are many long sweeping corners, which flow quite nicely.”
Brivio also noted that F1 is going to Qatar “at a good time of year with the warm weather”, although he is anticipating more stable conditions than in Mexico and Brazil despite cooling issues likely to provide a test for many teams amidst the potential for windy conditions in lower evening temperatures.