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Qatar GP: Preview - Haas

NEWS STORY
17/11/2021

Uralkali Haas F1 Team is heading from the Americas to the Middle East for the final leg of a triple-header, and an inaugural trip to Qatar, marking Round 20 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Qatar's Losail International Circuit was constructed in 2004 and became a focal point for the MotoGP World Championship, including hosting the opening two rounds of the two-wheeled series earlier this year. It is just 70 miles away from the Bahrain International Circuit, where Formula 1's 2021 championship began back in March with pre-season testing and the Bahrain Grand Prix. But for Formula 1 and Uralkali Haas F1 Team it will be the first venture to both Qatar and the Losail International Circuit, with the venue added to the schedule as a replacement round for Australia.

The Losail International Circuit features a lengthy pit straight and an abundance of sweeping medium and high-speed corners across its 5.3km layout. Track evolution is expected to be high throughout the course of the weekend owing to its infrequent use, with changeable winds and sand also a potential disruptor, as can be the case in nearby Bahrain. Losail is equipped with floodlights and thus there will be one more night race on the schedule, with Qatar joining Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and soon-to-debut Saudi Arabia in taking place after sundown in 2021.

After the third Sprint-based weekend in Sao Paulo Formula 1 will revert to its more traditional format in Qatar, giving Uralkali Haas F1 Team and rookie drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher three practice sessions of running prior to the business end of the weekend.

The Qatar Grand Prix is the third and final race in the last triple-header instalment of races on the 2021 F1 calendar. With changes of continents, time-zones, altitude etc, not to mention the frustrations experienced with things like freight delays ahead of last week's Sao Paulo Grand Prix - how do you feel the team's placed, both mentally and physically, for this next instalment and is it a greater challenge given the Losail International Circuit is a brand-new venue to F1 - with everyone venturing into the unknown?
Guenther Steiner: "As the old saying goes, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going,' and our team got going very well when we had delays in Brazil with the freight. They did a fantastic job to get everything together and they're in for it, they go through it and obviously they can also see an end to it now. They realize that this year is a difficult season because COVID is still around and a lot was pushed into the last half of the season. They kept their heads down, worked hard and we achieved everything we wanted to achieve. In the end, we came out on the good side and it made the team grow together. They know if they just work together they can achieve this.

"The brand-new circuit where we're going brings excitement because most of our team hasn't been there. Even though it's a triple-header, you get to a new location which they haven't seen yet. You know you need to work hard but if you do this job, part of it is exploring new things and everyone is really looking forward to going to Qatar because we will be coming back in years to come - so there's excitement around it."

Formula 1 announced that Qatar would enjoy a 10-year deal commencing 2023, having offered to step in late to host a race in 2021. Having seen the success of the likes of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in establishing Formula 1 in the Middle East - do you see this simply as a further strengthening of Formula 1 in the region or a bold new addition that offers something different to its geographic neighbors?
GS: "I think it's a good addition and this year they stepped in at the last minute to help us get a good race calendar. I think the Middle East is a good location to have races - it's not too far away from Europe, it's warm when it's getting cold in Europe and if people plan their holidays, it's a good place to go. These countries are up and coming and they put a lot of effort in to host these events."

Summarize Mick and Nikita's strengths in tackling this last flurry of races with most of the venues visited completely new to them both in their careers. As F1 rookies, and with the pace of the VF-21 acknowledged - how impressed have you been with their ability to knuckle down and learn the circuits.
GS: "I think coming into a season like this - for rookies with 22 events - somehow it needs to be very challenging but exciting at the same time. If you're 22 years old and you're able to do this, it must be a fantastic feeling but it's hard work. Don't forget about the hard work they put in because they need to perform on track, and they do perform. Obviously, what is performance with the car we've got, we knew that it wouldn't be strong. They brought the car home most of the time, they've learned along the way. When the team told them to do things differently, they adapted to it and listened.

"I think coming to the end of the season they should be happy with what they've learned and then take that learning and put it into next season, as that will be a different game. We need to fight for points and that is the mission. Next year the pressure will be higher but in a different way. The challenge this year was getting used to everything and learn Formula 1. They've had a year of learning and now we need to deliver points."

The inaugural Qatar Grand Prix will take place at the purpose-built Losail International Circuit - a location known for hosting battles on two wheels, rather than four. How do you think Formula 1 cars will fare around the track?
Nikita Mazepin: "The Qatar race is going to be an exciting one because I've raced there in my first-ever race in Formula MRF in 2014, so it's a track that I enjoy, although I haven't been there in a long time. It's a track where a lot of sand remains. I'm looking forward to going after very different types of races."

What is your personal checklist for tackling a new circuit? What is your priority in terms of dialing in around the track and what, if any, goals do you set for yourself?
NM: "When you go to new circuits it's really important to build-up and not make silly mistakes that will send you backwards two steps. Learn the track on the simulator if possible, then learn it via the onboards and do the track walk and then start building into it on the real track."

It will be your second Formula 1 race to take place after sunset, does that provide any additional challenges or nuances to prepare for, or is it business as usual?
NM: "I love racing at night. I think it's a spectacular venue, Qatar itself, and then under the lights it looks really good. I'm excited to see what it's going to look like. It's not really different, obviously the travel and the set-up seem different because it's so different to Brazil and the US, but the track venues are quite similar."

The inaugural Qatar Grand Prix will take place at the purpose-built Losail International Circuit - a location known for hosting battles on two wheels, rather than four. How do you think Formula 1 cars will fare around the track?
Mick Schumacher: "I think we all know that MotoGP goes to Qatar a lot and we haven't been but I'm sure it will be an experience for us all. I don't know what to expect as I haven't been there so it's brand-new for everybody and I hope it will bring us closer to the top teams and at least we'll be able to fight on track with others."

What is your personal checklist for tackling a new circuit? What is your priority in terms of dialing in around the track and what, if any, goals do you set for yourself?
MS: "I think it's just about having seen the track at least once; it does help a lot. We have track walks, we get a lot of data - maybe not at this track - but we will definitely have the opportunity to see. By the time I drive in FP1 I should be fine and hopefully I'll be able to tackle the track."

It will be your second Formula 1 race to take place after sunset, does that provide any additional challenges or nuances to prepare for, or is it business as usual?
MS: "It's pretty much business as usual. It doesn't really change as the lights that the track has are nearly the same as daylight and you manage to see just as well, especially because of the time zone we're in right now."

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