The Australian Grand Prix is traditionally the opening race of the Formula One season and has been held at Albert Park in Melbourne since 1996. The 2016 Grand Prix, which was due to be held on the 3rd of April next year according to the FIA’s 2016 calendar released earlier this year, has now been moved forward by a fortnight, and will now be held on the 20th of March next year.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the FIA had renewed the race at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit through to 2023 amid talk of Sydney looking to take over hosting once the contract at Melbourne was initially due to end in 2020.
The announcement was made on the official website of the Australian Grand Prix, which also showed the changed dates on its homepage. The official statement read “The date for the 2016 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix has changed to 17-20 March.”
The race will still remain the first on the calendar, although there is no information so far on the remainder of the year’s races. WMSC – the World Motor Sport Council, which is the most powerful body of motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, is responsible for the control of rules and regulations in Formula One, and will meet this evening in Paris to issue a statement.
However, the decision may not be one appreciated by all teams, and could potentially create scheduling issues. Pre-season testing for Formula One is due for the weekend of 15th March, and was to be held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as teams tested vehicles ahead of the new season.
This will be extremely important for teams bringing major upgrades over the year, as well as those with significant lineup changes. Haas F1, the newest entrant to the Formula One grid, announced yesterday that former Lotus driver Romain Grosjean would be their primary driver, and testing will be of prime importance to the team, which will have Dallara-constructed chassis.
Williams chief of engineering Rob Smedley told reporters at the conference it would be “difficult” for the team, which recently confirmed both its drivers - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas – have had their contracts renewed through the 2016 season.
“Two weeks is a lifetime. We have to redo all our plans really. We fine tune the plans to start on the 1st of April or whatever it is and that's really done with no margin in order that we can extract the most out of the car in all the areas. It's not as if we've got two weeks slack that we're thinking, well, we can go on holiday for them two weeks and we can rock up just before the first test. Absolutely not.
“So I think that's going to be really, really tough for us, but it's going to be really tough for everybody – regardless of your resources it's going to be tough. For a team like ours it's probably going to be a little bit more difficult,” Smedley said.
Next year’s calendar will see 21 races, with the German Grand Prix set to return to the Formula One Calendar, and the inaugural Grand Prix at Baku, Azerbaijan also on the cards.