Formula One has released its draft calendar for 2019, with the three-year renewal of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka perhaps the most notable announcement.
Suzuka, which has hosted the Japanese Grand Prix since 2009, retains the race while Japanese carmaker Honda has been named as its new title sponsor, starting from this year’s meeting in October.
Following the announcement, president of Japanese GP promoter MobilityLand, Susumu Yamashita, said: “We are excited for the future and hope that the Suzuka Circuit continues to remain a fans’ favourite around the world, whilst continuing to contribute positively toward the prosperity of motor sports in Japan.”
Other announcements made within the release include the confirmation that the German Grand Prix is back for 2019, once again being staged at the Hockenheim-Ring and with Mercedes becoming the new title sponsor – ending speculation over the event’s future.
The race was not held in 2015 and 2017 after the Nurburgring’s financial issues left it unable to host it while sharing the event alternately with the Hockenheim circuit.
After its place on the 2019 roster was confirmed, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “This year’s Grand Prix in Hockenheim was a demonstration of the enthusiasm that Formula One generates in Germany. It was therefore important for us to do everything in our power to ensure that our home race will take place again next year.”
The motorsport series’ managing director Sean Bratches added: “The renewal of the Japanese Grand Prix and the confirmation of the German Grand Prix are both examples of our direction to place fans at the heart of Formula One, a vision shared with all our promoters.”
With the Belgian Grand Prix also agreeing a renewal deal in the summer, the proposed calendar will feature a record 21 races with the season concluding in Abu Dhabi – finishing in December for the first time since 1963.
Formula One also announced that the Chinese Grand Prix will have the honour of hosting its 1,000th race, which takes place on 14th April.
This year’s championship still hangs in the balance with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel cutting current champion Lewis Hamilton’s lead to 17 points following victory at Spa on Sunday.