Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN heads to uncharted territory at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix, the 20th race of the 2021 season and the final part of a triple-header spanning three continents. The team is ready to tackle the Losail International Circuit, a track that makes its first appearance in the Formula One calendar, for the first of three floodlit races in a row.
After two events in two weeks in the Americas, north and south of the Panama Canal, the team embarks on the long journey to the Middle East, more than 10,000km away, to bring this gruelling triple-header to an end. Bodies and minds are weary but the determination and commitment of the team are unwavering. With just three rounds remaining in the championship, every lap counts in our quest for points, and every lap can represent an opportunity to grasp with both hands.
This is even truer in Qatar: racing on a track that was not even in the calendar until not long ago, and on which no Formula One car has ever been run in anger. A staple in the MotoGP season, Losail will be like one of the Arab tales retold in Doha’s souq, slowly revealing its secrets as page after page of the weekend is written. North of the capital city, the track is expected to undergo a dramatic evolution from session to session as more rubber is deposited on the surface, increasing its grip. The dust is blown away with each passing car, just as the drivers acquire confidence and push ever harder: qualifying, after three session of practice devoted to discovery and set-up fine-tuning, should be a sight to behold.
The unexpected awaits behind every corner: in such an exposed region, the track can be hit by some of the strongest wind in the Peninsula, with sand being blown onto the track and grip levels being set back wildly. It’s an added jeopardy that only adds to the fascination this event fills us with. Like in those Arab tales, spun by fishermen as they while the day away on their dhows, there can be twists and surprises. Like in those tales, there will be villains and heroes: we sure do hope to be the ones getting away into the Gulf night with untold riches, in the form of points, in the end…
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN
“It’s been a busy week, with some big announcements for our team, but all our focus needs to be on the track now. This weekend’s race in Qatar is a crucial one for our championship and we approach it with no distractions, ready to give all we have in our quest to bring home the points we need. Coming at the end of a hard triple-header, being in our best shape will require everyone in the team to dig deep, but I am confident in what our team can do. A track like Qatar is new for everyone and discovering it will be a very important part of our weekend: we will need to make every session count and work with the track evolution. The conditions will be the same for everyone, though, so it’s up to us to make the most of them.”
“I am approaching the last three races of my career and to race in two completely new tracks is quite interesting: it sure adds a bit of variety and keeps things fresh. The track looks fairly straightforward, with a long straight, a good overtaking spot at the end of it and a twisty middle part in which passing will be hard. It will be all about setting yourself up in the best position to attack on the finish straight, but that’s as much as we can tell now. Practice will be important to find out what the grip is and how the tyres work, especially as we expect the surface to be dusty at first. We showed some good pace in the last few races, so hopefully we can get on top of the track quickly and have a good result.”
“I am really looking forward to being back in the cockpit and to getting back to racing. The announcements of this week are in the past now, and my objective is to have some strong performances for the remainder of the season. Qatar is a new track for everyone, so we all start from zero: this can be an opportunity for whoever gets up to speed the quickest. It is obvious, by now, that achieving a good result will take a flawless weekend: the midfield is as close as it can be and you can go from hero to zero, and vice-versa, with just some tiny gains or mistakes. We are due a good result after some unlucky races and this weekend would be a great occasion to claim it.”