F1: Qatar joins calendar amid controversy

(GMM) Qatar has emerged as the official replacement for this year’s axed Australian GP.

But the deal, which had been expected, could actually be a long-term blow for the beleaguered Melbourne race, with Australia struggling amid a deep covid-related political crisis and facing an uncertain future on the calendar.

Formula 1 has announced that the Losail circuit in Qatar won’t just host a grand prix this year – but for ten more years after that starting in 2023.

“There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed for 10 years,” a statement read.

The news has upset Amnesty International, who are also opposed to the new Formula 1 race in neighboring Saudi Arabia over alleged human rights abuses.

“Qatar’s human rights record is extremely troubling,” the group now says, “from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers to its curbs on free speech and its criminalization of same-sex relations.

“Formula One should insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labor standards across all supply chains.”

Another political issue playing out in real time regarding Qatar relates to covid vaccines.

Some media have reportedly been briefed that only fully vaccinated attendees in November will have freedom of movement.

“One of the questions the Qatar ministry of health is asking is what percentage of personnel will be fully vaccinated 14 days before the date of the GP,” a letter to F1 media, purportedly from Formula One Management, reads.

The email goes on to suggest that vaccinated people will be able to “choose their own hotels and leave the hotels in evenings for dinner”, while unvaccinated media will be confined to their hotels that are “selected by the government”.

“We are hopeful the F1 community will fall into the first category, but we must provide the information to (Qatar) first,” the FOM letter adds.


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