Formula One: Qatar to host first its grand prix in November after signing 10-year deal

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Qatar is set to host its first grand prix later this year, with a landmark 10-year deal from 2023 also being announced by Formula One.

The Middle Eastern country will fill the vacant spot on 21 November left by Australia, which had to cancel due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The race - which has already added to allegations Qatar is attempting to "sportswash" its image - will take place at Losail International Circuit, 20 miles outside of Doha.

F1 said in a statement: "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.

"The vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the (soccer) World Cup in 2022 was the driving force."

The race will be followed by the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah on 5 December, before the season ends with the Abu Dhabi race on 12 December.

Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup - a tournament dogged by accusations that those working on the stadiums are being used as modern day slaves, which it denies - means there will be no grand prix there next year.

Instead, its 10-year deal with F1 to host annual races will start in 2023.

Drivers have been urged to speak out about the country's poor human rights record in the build-up to the race, with Amnesty International highlighting its "curbs on free speech and its criminalisation of same-sex relations", and calling on the sport's stars to "break the spell of sportwashing and image management."

Qatar boasts a 5.4km (3.4 mile) circuit, which holds 8,000 fans, and has also hosted the MotoGP series since 2004.

Changes were made to the remaining F1 calendar this year after Japan cancelled its race on 10 October, with Turkey taking that slot after originally being booked for 3 October.

The Mexican Grand Prix moved from 31 October to 7 November, while Brazil switched from then to 14 November.

However, the US Grand Prix will continue on its scheduled date of 24 October.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali added: "We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport, and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix.

"The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and (governing body) FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22-race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year."

It comes as British driver Lewis Hamilton is preparing to head into the final seven rounds with a five-point advantage over his rival Max Verstappen.

Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers' Championship titles in F1, tied with Michael Schumacher.

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