Having initially denied that it was interested in adding Formula One to its MotoGP commitments, Qatar's Losail International Circuit has admitted that it would happily join Bahrain and Abu Dhabi on the grand prix schedule.
Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, president of the country's Motor and Motorcycling Federation has told the regional Gulf Weekly
newspaper that the circuit is poised to complete an upgrade that would bring it in line with F1 standards.
“Hosting a F1 race is definitely in the strategic plan for Qatar," he confirmed, "We have a great track and we are currently working on upgrading it to official specifications. We have already covered the standard requirements and we are three-quarters through the project. We just have some minor changes and modifications to make. We have already upgraded areas such as the run-offs and want to be recognised as an F1 Grade A circuit with testing capabilities."
The Losail International Circuit, built in 2004 at a cost approaching $60m, could add to the roster of venues prepared to host races under lights in order to satisfy the demand of European audiences, having staged MotoGP races at night for the past three years. The circuit has already played host to the GP2 Series that sits directly under F1 on the racing ladder, including races under lights in 2009.
"We already have F1 teams contacting us about testing at our circuit, which is why we are waiting for the appropriate licence," Al Attiyah continued, revealing that he planned to submit Qatar's candidature to Bernie Ecclestone once the work had been completed, "We want to be a part of the F1 market here in the Gulf. Motorsport is big in the Middle East and we want to share in that pride alongside Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
"Once our bid is made, we will require the advice and support of our neighbours. We want to develop a motorsport culture within Qatar and the region. Hosting F1 is not about prestige, it's about the enjoyment of the sport and it has developed such a large fan base here. Let's give the public what they want."
The addition of Qatar to the list of hopefuls will put pressure on Ecclestone to either expand the calendar beyond the 20-race limit believed to have been proposed to the teams, or begin culling established events. Korea joins the fray in 2010, with India due on board next season. The USA will be the next addition, returning with a new venue in Austin in 2012, with Russia already waiting in the wings should a circuit ever materialise.
Qatar is already building links with F1 via the Williams
Technology Centre, which was set up together with the Qatar Science and Technology Park to develop environmentally-beneficial technologies inspired by the sport.