Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali has revealed for the first time that talks have taken place over an inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in November.
In an interview with the PA news agency, Domenicali also confirmed the sport’s revised calendar – which will be presented to team bosses ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday – will drop from 23 races to 22.
Although a deal for a round in Qatar – set to take place at the Losail International Circuit 20 miles outside of Doha – is yet to be finalised, it is understood to be the frontrunner to fill the vacant slot left by the cancelled Australian Grand Prix.
With Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi keeping their spots as the concluding rounds of the campaign on December 5 and December 12 respectively, it means the season is set to end with three races in the Middle East.
A second round in Bahrain is the fall-back option if a deal to race in Qatar, the venue for next winter’s World Cup, cannot be completed.
“Yes, it is correct, there have been talks [about a race in Qatar],” said Domenicali.
“I cannot confirm anything or deny anything at this stage because it would be wrong from my side. We need to find a solution for the Australian cancellation, and we will announce the calendar soon, hopefully before the end of this weekend.”
Domenicali said both the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix are in line to go ahead, despite both countries being on the UK government’s red list due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.
It is understood the rounds will be pushed back a week to November 7 and November 14, with Qatar likely to form the final race of a triple-header on November 21.
That allows F1 bosses to get around the complications of both Mexico and Brazil being on the red list, and mandatory enforced quarantine for thousands of staff of the seven UK based teams.
The Japanese Grand Prix, originally planned for October 10 but cancelled last week, will not be replaced.
F1 bosses are still hopeful the October’s Turkish GP at Istanbul Park will go ahead despite the country remaining on the government’s red list.
Domenicali added: “Realistically speaking, we are targeting 22 races and that would be a huge success because that number has never happened before in Formula One, and we should not forget that, particularly in a year of Covid.”