Qatar awarded its first EVER F1 Grand Prix as the Gulf State agrees a 10-YEAR deal from 2023 – but decision is slammed by Amnesty International, who urge drivers to ‘speak out’ about human rights issues
- Qatar has been added to the Formula One calendar for the 2021 season
- The Losail International Circuit in Doha will host the country’s inaugural F1 race
- It will be a night race and the hope is organisers will build a new track for 2023
- F1’s 2021 season will round out with races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi
- There has been criticism from fans of the sport for heading to these countries
Formula One has signed an eye-watering £600million deal to take the sport to Qatar on a long-term basis.
The announcement came yesterday, with the inaugural grand prix on November 21 due to replace the Australian race that fell foul of Covid restrictions. After a pause in 2022, Qatar’s bumper 10-year contract will kick in from 2023.
Sportsmail understands the hosting fee of at least £60m annually makes it one of the sport’s largest such deals ever, possibly even eclipsing the recent tie-up with Saudi Arabia.
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
The 3.4-mile circuit is typically used for MotoGP but will now host Formula 1 on November 21
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE
‘It’s no secret that rich countries in the Middle East see top-level sport as a means to rebrand and sportswash their images, and a Grand Prix in Qatar would be more of the same.
‘Having sunk vast amounts of money into Paris Saint-German and hired thousands of overseas workers to build stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Qatar is clearly attempting to turn itself into a sporting superpower.
‘Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling – from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and its criminalisation of same-sex relations.
‘Formula One should insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains.
‘Drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to this race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportwashing and image-management.’
The average fee across the world is £25m, with old tracks such as Silverstone and Monza paying around ‘just’ £15m a year in recognition of their historical significance and limited resources.
To the horror of human rights groups, yesterday’s addition takes the number of races to be held in the Gulf region to four. Bahrain, who were first to join the roster in 2004, and Abu Dhabi complete the states accused of ‘sportswashing’.
A spokesman for Amnesty International said: ‘Having sunk vast amounts of money into Paris Saint-Germain and hired thousands of overseas workers to build stadiums for next year’s World Cup, Qatar is clearly attempting to turn itself into a sporting superpower.
‘Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling — from its long-standing mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and criminalisation of same-sex relations.
‘Formula One should insist all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains.’
A Formula One spokesman said they took their responsibilities ‘very seriously’ and that Amnesty’s demands had already been enshrined in the contract.
It is the view of F1’s new chief executive Stefano Domenicali that his sport should act as a force for good by shining a light on international concerns and insisting high standards are met.
The deal is a massive boost for F1’s finances after the battering they took in the pandemic, with fees last year greatly reduced as owners Liberty Media scrambled to stage 17 races. Confirmation of Qatar’s inclusion takes this season to a pocket-filling 22 rounds.
The Qataris have been interested in staging a race for a number of years.
Qatar has pushed for a Grand Prix since 2015 and will commence a 10-year deal from 2023
Their chance came with Covid shaking up the calendar. There were no great objections from their neighbouring F1 hosts.
Next month’s event will be held at the Losail International Circuit in Doha at twilight under floodlights. The hiatus in 2022 allows time for a bespoke permanent track to be prepared.
Domenicali took a whistle-stop trip to Doha to meet executives from the race’s sponsors, telecommunications giant Ooredoo and Qatar’s culture minister. He confirmed the partnership in front of local media yesterday.
It is currently unclear whether Losail will host just 2021, or also future Qatar races from 2023
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)