The British driver has 216 points, with six races remaining after the end of the European part of the season. (photo: Reuters)
The Formula One season will start later in 2016 with the opening race in Australia pushed back to April, organisers said on Wednesday.
The Melbourne Grand Prix will maintain its traditional opening slot on the calendar but will be run on April 3 to "condense the season", which will end in November.
It normally gets under way in mid-March.
The revised date will see the Australian event follow Easter and take place after daylight savings, which means it will also start earlier in the day, although a final time has yet to be announced.
"It's fantastic that Melbourne will again play host to the opening round of the Formula One World Championship," said Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott in a statement.
"The new date will see an earlier start time, and fans can expect the same great on-track action and off-track entertainment across the four days."
Only once before has the Australian Grand Prix been held in April, in 2006, when it was moved to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
In that year it took place on April 2 as the third round of the season.
The full 2016 Formula One calendar has not yet been released but it could be missing the classic Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Formula One commercial ring-master Bernie Ecclestone said earlier this month that he was considering dumping it.
This year's German Grand Prix, scheduled to be held on July 19, was axed in March to the amazement of many observers.
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