Formula 1 has found a replacement for the canceled Australian Grand Prix.
F1 announced Thursday that it would race at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar on Nov. 21. The race will be the 20th of 22 scheduled races and comes after the Australian Grand Prix was canceled for a second consecutive season because of COVID-19.
The addition of the race in Qatar means that any thought of a doubleheader at Circuit of the Americas in Texas is off the table. A potential doubleheader in Austin had been mentioned after races in Australia and Japan had been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, there will be just one race in the U.S. in 2021 ahead of two races in 2022 with the addition of a spring race in Miami.
The original F1 calendar had 23 races on it before modifications had to be made because of the pandemic. The modified schedule saw Turkey pushed back to Oct. 10 and two races in Austria.
The agreement to race in Qatar in 2021 also includes a 10-year contract beginning 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," Formula 1 said in a statement.
"The step from the gesture to be helpful to F1 in 2021 to a long-term strategy was short and simple and the vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the FIFA World Cup in 2022 was the driving force behind this long term agreement. As part of the longer-term deal, discussions will continue regarding the location for the Grand Prix from 2023 with further details to be provided at a later time."
7 races left in 2021
Formula 1 will now run the final three races of the 2021 season in the Middle East. After Turkey on Oct. 10 the series comes to Circuit of the Americas on Oct. 24. A race follows in Mexico two weeks after Austin and then F1 goes to Brazil the week after Mexico.
Travel will be tricky after the Brazil race because there's no off weekend between Brazil and Qatar. There's then one more off weekend before races in Saudi Arabia and the season finale in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 12. According to a report from France 24, the new circuit in Saudi Arabia is in a race against time to be completed by the scheduled race date.
Lewis Hamilton currently leads Max Verstappen by two points in the driver standings. Hamilton won the 100th race of his career at the Russian Grand Prix, though Verstappen drove from the back of the pack to finish second in a wild final few laps because of rain at the Sochi circuit.