FORMULA 1 has revealed another 21-race schedule for 2019 — with the season to finish in December for the first time in over 50 years.
The German GP at Hockenheim retains its place on the provisional calendar after striking a new deal with the sport, as does the Japanese GP at Suzuka in a new agreement until 2021.
The 2019 campaign will start as usual in Australia, but one week earlier than this year on March 17, while the Abu Dhabi season finale will take place one week later — with race-day on December 1.
An F1 season last finished in December in 1963.
The British GP at Silverstone, currently the final event scheduled on the venue’s current contract, takes place on July 14.
The schedule, which still requires final approval from the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council, features five back-to-back race weekends but no repeat of this year’s unprecedented triple-header.
China, the third event of the season, will have the honour of staging F1’s 1000th Grand Prix.
NEW DEALS FOR GERMANY AND JAPAN
With plans for a new street race in Miami shelved for at least 12 months, the calendar had looked set to drop to 20 events with Germany not having been expected to secure a deal for 2019.
But the success of July’s Hockenheim event after a year’s absence appears to have proved a game-changer with an agreement reached for Germany to stage races in consecutive years for the first time since 2013-14.
Mercedes will become the event’s title sponsor next year.
“This year’s Grand Prix in Hockenheim was a demonstration of the enthusiasm that Formula 1 generates in Germany,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “It was therefore important for us to do everything in our power to ensure that our home race will take place again next year.
“Together with Formula 1 and all the relevant stakeholders, we have found a way to make it happen.”
Japan was also out of contract after this year but a new three-year deal for the popular Suzuka venue was confirmed at the Italian GP. The Belgian GP at Spa secured its own contract until 2021 earlier this year.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT COMPARED TO 2018?
— The season starts one week earlier in 2019 and finishes one week later.
— Bahrain and China are no longer back-to-back.
— But Singapore and Russia are now back-to-back.
— There is no repeat of F1’s first triple header.
— The summer break starts one week later in August, but there remains a four-week break between race days.
— Mexico and the USA swap positions on the calendar.
‘SHAME ON F1’: MOTORSPORT CHIEF BLASTS NEW REVEAL
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage lambasted F1 bosses for their “infamous indifference” toward fans after the draft calendar for 2019 was revealed.
The schedule would flip the traditional autumn pairing of the races in Austin and Mexico City, putting the Mexican Grand Prix first for the first time. Pushing the US Grand Prix back a week to November 3 would conflict with NASCAR’s playoff race on the same day at Texas Motor Speedway, about a three-hour drive north of the Circuit of the Americas.
A similar scenario happened in 2014.
“Shame on Formula 1 for doing this to the fans,” Gossage said. “Fans have recognised this as the NASCAR date on this weekend since its inception long before Circuit of the Americas was built.
“I would think a lot of fans — myself included — would enjoy going to both races. Now Formula 1 is making fans choose only one. Yet another bad call by Formula 1 showing their infamous indifference toward the fans.”
Circuit of the Americas President Bobby Epstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mexico City race organisers are also likely to be unhappy as the Mexican GP would be on October 27, several days ahead of the national Dia de los Muertos holiday celebrations, despite their desire to link the two events.
The 21-race draft calendar is subject to approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council when it meets on October 12.
The order of races is otherwise very similar apart from the Chinese GP effectively swapping places with Bahrain and becoming the third destination on the circuit rather than the second.
Scroll to the bottom for the provisional 2019 calendar
VETTEL SURGES IN PRACTICE AT MONZA
Sebastian Vettel surged to the fastest time in practice at the Italian GP, but then spun, as Ferrari outpaced Mercedes on a dramatic opening day at Monza.
After the session started with a 350km/h crash for Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, which the Swede emerged unscathed from, Vettel was the driver who provided the pace on the timesheet by leading a Ferrari one-two at the team’s home track.
Mercedes were third and fourth, with lead runner Lewis Hamilton finishing 0.287s adrift of Vettel’s pace-setting 1:21.105 time.
Vettel was going faster and faster on the supersoft tyres during the qualifying simulations, but eventually pushed too hard at the Parabolica and spun backwards through the gravel.
His Ferrari rear wing sustained minor damage against the barriers and cost Vettel some running time in the later high-fuel race simulations.
“I know what doesn’t work, so that’s good to know!” said Vettel after the session. “At least I got out of the sandpit, which was difficult as a child — but nowadays I don’t want to spend much time there.”
But the early indications from the timesheet appear to confirm pre-weekend expectations that Ferrari, fresh from a commanding victory at Spa last Sunday, are favourites for pole and victory at F1’s fastest circuit ahead of Mercedes.
The dry running of P2 also underlined Red Bull’s fears, with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo fifth and sixth respectively but one second off Vettel’s pace.
“This is definitely the worst track for us so I didn’t expect miracles. Certainly in qualifying trim we are slow,” said Verstappen.
The Dutchman finished a tenth ahead of Ricciardo despite his teammate running the new “C-spec” engine from Renault. Ricciardo is taking engine penalties as a result and will start Sunday’s race from the back row.
Red Bull will now decide whether Verstappen also takes the upgrade for the weekend’s race, although the 20-year-old would still remain within his penalty-free engine allocation for the season.
Meanwhile, having proved fastest in the wet running of the morning, Force India’s momentum since the team’s summer break takeover continued apace as their cars lapped at the head of the midfield pack.
Charles Leclerc was ninth in the sole remaining Sauber, despite missing the early stages of the session after his teammate’s crash as the team inspected his car’s DRS wing.
It appears a DRS failure, when the rear-wing flap failed to close as usual under braking, pitched Ericsson into his frightening accident when the Sauber smashed into the barriers and then barrel rolled down the side of the track.
Ericsson was able to walk away from the shunt and doctors in the medical centre gave the Swede the all-clear.
With the Sauber driver not completing a timed lap, struggling McLaren finished with the slowest times ahead of what looks set to be another trying weekend for Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
PROVISIONAL 2019 F1 CALENDAR
— March 17: Melbourne, Australia
— March 31: Sakhir, Bahrain
— April 14: Shanghai, China
— April 28: Baku, Azerbaijan
— May 12: Barcelona, Spain
— May 26: Monaco, Monaco
— June 9: Montreal, Canada
— June 23: Le Castellet, France
— June 30: Spielberg, Austria
— July 14: Silverstone, Great Britain
— July 28: Hockenheim, Germany
— August 4: Budapest, Hungary
— September 1: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
— September 8: Monza, Italy
— September 22: Singapore, Singapore
— September 29: Sochi, Russia
— October 13: Suzuka, Japan
— October 27: Mexico City, Mexico
— November 3: Austin, USA
— November 17: Sao Paolo, Brazil
— December 1: Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi
This article first appeared on Sky Sports and was republished with permission