Australian Grand Prix organisers have confirmed that the 2016 Formula One season will kick off at Melbourne on March 17-20, namely two weeks earlier than the initial April 3 slot.
The FIA released and approved a record 21-race calendar last July but this provisional schedule still needed ratification by the World Motor Sport Council, which met on Wednesday in Paris.
With teams wary of a condensed programme and shorter summer break, F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone had looked to bring the season opener forward. Australian GP officials had already announced they were open to moving the date of their event, as long as it did not clash with the March 24-27 Easter weekend.
The change will create a domino effect and impact the pre-season testing schedule since the two four-day sessions are currently planned for March 1-4 and March 15-18 at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Although the announcement only became official on Wednesday, Williams head of performance engineering Rob Smedley had already voiced his concern over a potential earlier start to the 2016 campaign, saying it would prove “really tough” for all F1 teams to meet the new deadlines.
Melbourne organisers also wrote on their website that the new Australian GP date is only “part of a number of changes on a provisional calendar issued by the World Motor Sport Council”.
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