The Formula 1 season is set to start a week earlier next year, with the Australian Grand Prix confirming a mid-March date for 2019.
Having been run on the second-last weekend of March for the past two years, AGP organisers have locked down the March 14-17 slot for next year – subject to ratification by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
That weekend would give the Albert Park race some clean air in what is the busy month for Melbourne, sitting in between the popular Moomba Festival the weekend before, and the start of the Australian Football League season the week afterwards.
The opening round of the AFL season is likely to be the primary motivation behind the date switch, the country's biggest sporting code having kicked off on the same weekend as the F1 season for the past two years.
It does however create a clash with the FIA World Endurance Championship's Sebring fixture, which could create a headache for Fernando Alonso should the Spaniard elect to remain in F1 in 2019.
According to Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott, having the date locked in early should help tempt more overseas F1 fans into heading to Melbourne.
“To announce the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2019 date more than eight months out from the event is fantastic news and we hope this will encourage overseas and interstate visitors to plan for a lengthy visit to Melbourne and Victoria,” Westacott said.
"We are immensely proud of the four-day spectacle Melbourne puts on and honoured to raise the curtain on one of the world’s most prestigious annual championships.
“The start of an F1 season, our Aussie superstar Daniel Ricciardo, a Supercars championship round and so much off-track action – it’s a must-attend event in 2019."
The AGPC reported a four-day crowd of 295,000 at this year's Australian GP.
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- Formula 1