By Mukesh Sharma
Doha, Nov 21 (IANS) The roar of Formula One car engines whetted the excitement of motorsport fans in Qatar, who had keenly waited for celebrity racing drivers to burn the track as the country of 2.7 million feted the arrival of the marquee event.
Fans turned out in large numbers at the Losail International Circuit on the outskirts of capital Doha on Saturday as the joust for the title between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen propelled the former into pole position ahead of Sunday’s race at the 5.8-km Losail International Circuit.
“I think Formula One will add a lot of value to the countdown to the World Cup as it is an A-list event,” said Adan Ali, a keen follower of the sport in Doha. “It is good to see an event of this scale even though Qatar has been hosting important events. Since this event was announced on September 30, I am not sure how many international fans attended,” added Ali who thinks the Ooredoo Grand Prix can help authorities deal with traffic and logistics management for future tournaments.
“Qatar hosting the 20th round of the World Championship firmly establishes it as a global sports hub,” said Doha-based senior sports journalist Rizwan Rehmat.
“F1 was the only missing link on Qatar’s sporting crown of jewels. F1 stars Hamilton and Verstappen battling for points in the title race on Sunday will be once again watched by millions of fans around the globe. New audiences will tune into what Qatar is like as a country, the racing circuit it has and so on. It’s only natural for television viewers to seek more knowledge about a F1 host country. I think the momentum towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup is building nicely,” said Rehmat who has reported from multiple countries across the globe.
Hamilton admitted after the race he was as surprised as anyone to qualify nearly half a second faster than Verstappen — with the seven-time champion also not ruling out adopting a more aggressive approach to racing following his and Red Bull rival’s on-track battle in Brazil last time out, the F1 website quoted him saying.
“It was really beautiful out there today, especially under the night lights,” the knighted British racing driver said.
Qatar is hosting FIFA Arab Cup from November 30 to December 18, the country’s National Day. The tournament will see 16 teams from across the Arab world compete in an event that offers a great opportunity to experience the spirit of the Gulf state and the stadiums that will host the World Cup in 2022.