Melbourne, Sep 29 (IANS) Australian Grand Prix officials have welcomed the decision to retain Melbourne as the opening race in the 2017 Formula One season.

But the race will begin one week later than usual — on March 26, 2017 — to allow teams more time to adjust to F1’s new rule changes, reports Xinhua.

The Federation International of Automobiles (FIA) confirmed that Melbourne would open the season for the 20th time in its 22-year history, as listed on its provisional calendar for 2017, released on Thursday morning.

Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, said he was excited to have Melbourne, and the Albert Park track, open the season once again.

“The air of anticipation surrounding a brand new Formula One season brings a buzz that Victorians know so well, with our great city coming alive in March and being on show to a vast global audience,” Westacott told News Limited on Thursday.

“We look forward to welcoming fans, teams and drivers from all around the world to Melbourne in March,” he added.

Westacott also said he was particularly excited to see budding Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo improve on his fourth-place finish in Melbourne in 2016.

“Fans worldwide, but especially those in Australia, will look forward to seeing how one of the most likeable drivers in Formula One, Daniel Ricciardo, will do in the first race of the 2017 Formula One season,” he said.

Melbourne has often proved a good measure of how the Formula One season will unfold, with 12 of 20 previous winners having gone on to win the Drivers’ Championship and the 2016 winner, Nico Rosberg, currently leading the championship race.

Melbourne was replaced as the opening race of the calendar by Abu Dhabi for the 2006 and 2010 seasons, but that GP has now been moved to be the closing race of the season on November 26th.

The Shanghai Grand Prix will follow Melbourne as the second race on April 9.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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