Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani, Losail International Circuit, 2009

First Qatari drives for Williams at Losail

2009 F1 season

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His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar became the first Qatari to drive an F1 car in a publicity event for Williams at Losail International Circuit.

He drove five laps of the circuit in a 2009-specification FW31 and enthused about the experience afterwards:

The Williams FW31 is a remarkable vehicle, unlike any other race car I’ve ever driven. Being the first Qatarian to drive a Formula One car was an amazing experience I will not forget.
Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani

New Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg also drove around the circuit. Although circuit testing is heavily restricted in F1, teams are allowed to conduct promotional events using specially-supplied tyres.

Hulkenberg, who scored a dominant victory in GP2 Asia at Losail in February, will remain in the region until Tuesday for winter training.

Team mate Rubens Barrichello lapped the venue as well and talked up its potential as an F1 track:

There are plenty of corners on the Losail circuit, so it took a while to memorise, but it had great grip level and the layout is great. It has a long enough straight to promote good overtaking and it would make a great venue for a grand prix.
Rubens Barrichello

Sheikh Khalid is developing the Qatar Motor City project which will include an oval track, road racing course and drag racing track which has attracted attention from NASCAR.

He prepared for his stint behind the wheel of an F1 car by visiting Williams’ base in the UK for a seat fitting and a session in the team’s simulator.

Williams launch a new project in Qatar in October to develop environmentally-friendly innovations using F1 technology.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “First Qatari drives for Williams at Losail”

  1. I’m wondering as to whether this may tells us anything about potential Williams sponsorships as well.

    Anyway its good to see Sir Frank diversifying the Williams portfolio…

  2. Btw, Why don’t we have an F1 race at Losail by now anyway, I always quite liked the place.

    1. Probably because it’s just another giant Scalextric track in the middle of nowhere, and F1 doesn’t need another one of those, although it’ll get them anyway.

    2. Because they haven’t been prepared to Ecclestone enough?

      Hopefully this drive will lead to a decent sponsorship deal for Williams.

  3. I wonder if he was any good? Did they possibly post lap times?

  4. An interesting side note: Shiekh Khalid is involved in the Alan Johnson Al-Anabi NHRA Top Fuel drag racing team here in the United States. In their first year, his dragster driver, Larry Dixon, came within a few points of winning the championship. His Highness is apparently interested in a lot of different types of motorsports, and also drives:

    He seems like a pretty cool guy!

  5. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th December 2009, 21:20

    That moustache should be in Formula One.

  6. In the last picture he looks like Nakajima with sunglasses and a moustache :D

  7. A Formula One first : a sheikh-down test.
    This harks back to the pre and post war years when well-to-do people drove in F1.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      10th December 2009, 22:13

      The sheik isn’t some numpty without ability – I believe he’s actually a drag racer. It’s something of a stunt by Williams, since they’re setting up a technology base in Qatar.

  8. I think Button must have really ****** Ross off as I find it interesting that Rubens is allowed to do a Williams event and Jenson is being watched.. lol

    I wonder if Rubens drove the FW31?

  9. I’m sorry Keith I didn’t realize that word would be inappropriate.. I should of used upset.. me bad.. :)
    Do you know if Rubens drove the Williams?

  10. Always had a soft spot for Williams, especially since Alan Jones (a fellow Aussie) won the championship for them in 1980. Hopefully they can move up the grid again in 2010.

    Oh and just a small point. I think the reason that no F1 race is held at Losail is that while it is a very safe and reasonably fast circuit, apart from the front straight at nearly 1km long, the back of the circuit tends to flow in a series of corners making overtaking difficult. Cars tend to have to follow one another around with maybe only 2 or 3 genuine passing places on the whole track which can make for boring racing, something F1 doesn’t want or need. It is much more suited to bike racing since the bikes offer more passing opportunities than cars. After watching some car races there on YouTube and the MotoGP races there on TV, that’s my belief anyway.

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