German GP on 2019 F1 calendar as 21-race season ends in December

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The 2019 Formula One season will run into December for the first time in more than half-a-century.

A provisional 21-race calendar for next year, which includes the previously under-threat German Grand Prix, was released by F1 on Friday.

Melbourne’s Albert Park will play host to the season-opening round on March 17, with the final race to be staged at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on December 1.

The 1963 South African Grand Prix was the last F1 race to take place in December, although that year’s 10-round calendar kicked off in May.

There will be no triple-header next season with the British Grand Prix – as it stands, the last to be staged at Silverstone – moved back by one week. The race will clash with the men’s Wimbledon final on July 14.

F1 also announced a renewal of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka until 2021, while the sport’s 1,000th race will be held in China on April 14.

F1’s American owners Liberty Media had already announced that plans for a race in Miami, first pencilled in for 2019, have been put on hold for at least another 12 months.

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Watch: Hamilton is one win away from equalling Schumacher's record at Monza and other stats

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Sebastian Vettel can close the gap, or even overhaul it, when he takes on championship leader Lewis Hamilton again this weekend in what should be a supercharged Italian Grand Prix.

On Ferrari’s local track and in front of the tifosi, at the famous old Autodromo Nazionale, the four-time champion German can also equal Stirling Moss’s 1950s record of winning at Monza with three different teams if he delivers Ferrari’s first home win since 2010.

Monza holds special memories for Vettel after his wins with Toro Rosso in 2008 and then Red Bull in 2011 and 2013. His maiden win in torrential rain a decade ago remains Toro Rosso’s greatest hour and the moment that signalled he was a future champion.

Another victory this weekend would draw him level with Hamilton on four wins and, if the Briton suffers ill fortune, could also catapult Vettel into the lead of the drivers’ championship.

Watch the video below for more stats ahead of the race.

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Sebastian Vettel ready to haul in Lewis Hamilton on Ferrari's home soil

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Sebastian Vettel can close the gap, or even overhaul it, when he takes on championship leader Lewis Hamilton again this weekend in what should be a supercharged Italian Grand Prix.

Just days after his convincing victory in Belgium, where Hamilton admitted his Mercedes was “blown away” by the power and straight-line speed of Vettel’s Ferrari, Vettel should enjoy the scarlet scuderia’s homecoming.

On Ferrari’s local track and in front of the tifosi, at the famous old Autodromo Nazionale, the four-time champion German can also equal Stirling Moss’s 1950s record of winning at Monza with three different teams if he delivers Ferrari’s first home win since 2010.

Monza holds special memories for Vettel after his wins with Toro Rosso in 2008 and then Red Bull in 2011 and 2013. His maiden win in torrential rain a decade ago remains Toro Rosso’s greatest hour and the moment that signalled he was a future champion.

Another victory this weekend would draw him level with Hamilton on four wins and, if the Briton suffers ill fortune, could also catapult Vettel into the lead of the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton, who has been on pole at Monza for the last four years and five in six, is ahead by 17 points, but it is Vettel who has the confidence and momentum.

“I think we’ve done everything right at Spa, but I think it’s a huge compliment if people praise our engine now because for the last five years people didn’t praise anything other than Mercedes engines,” said Vettel.

“Now, we have a good car that seems to work everywhere so, hopefully, we can carry that momentum and speed to Monza.”

“It’s nice to have a change and I think all this makes Maranello and all the Ferraristi and our engine department very happy.”

Vettel has finished on the podium at Monza three times as a Ferrari driver – second in 2015 and third in 2016 and 2017 – and said he has cherished the atmosphere as the fans invade the track.

“If you are dressed in the right colour – which I am – then I think Monza is always an absolute highlight,” added Vettel. “As a racing driver, I don’t think it gets any better than that.

“There are so many families and support from our own people there, but the main thing obviously is all the fans, the Ferrari fans.”

A Ferrari win this weekend would not only reinforce their charge toward the title, but also end four years of Mercedes domination at the fastest track on the F1 calendar.

A Vettel victory would further deflate Hamilton’s bid for a fifth title as the defending champion conceded in Belgium where he said.

“The next race, with the kind of performance they have on straights, we might struggle to match them.”

Hamilton’s concerns are not shared by his Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

“Spa was always a bit of a tricky one for us,” he told reporters. “Monza was a good one. So I am very curious to see how it’s going to go — last year we were very much in control of the whole weekend and Ferrari had their worst of the season. So, performance-wise, I’m not worried.”

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