F1 Primer: The tracks

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There are 19 races on the 2013 F1 schedule from Austin to Abu Dhabi. Here are some of the highlights.

The fastest: Monza, Italy

The nearest thing F1 has to an IndyCar or NASCAR-style oval. Built just outside Milan in 1922, Monza is essentially four quick corners connected by long straights, interrupted by three chicanes to slow the cars down.

The latter means the classic slipstreaming races Monza used to see are a thing of the past. But it remains F1’s quickest track. The fastest ever F1 race took place here in 2003, won by Michael Schumacher at an average speed of 153.843mph.

Video: Lap of Monaco with Michael Schumacher in 2003

The longest: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Like Monza, the Spa circuit in the Ardennes forest in Belgium featured in the first ever world championship in 1950. Then an 8.7-mile monster, even in its reduced form the 4.3-mile track remains the longest in F1.

It’s also one of the most popular among the drivers as it is fast and flowing, with few of the many slow corners found on modern tracks. Eau Rouge, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont are some of the evocative names of the thrillingly fast corners to be found on the track.

The most glamorous: Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Holding a race around the streets of the tiny principality of Monaco is preposterous and marvelous. Were it not for its prestige and heritage there is no way a similar race could be envisaged today.

Monaco generally does not produce great races because overtaking is practically impossible. But its narrow confines are a stern challenge for the drivers and when combined with a sprinkling of rain it’s one of the toughest events in motor racing.

Video: Lap of Monaco with Ralf Schumacher, 2004

The original: Silverstone, Britain

The world championship began at Silverstone in 1950 and although the circuit has been transformed almost beyond recognition since then, it still features some of F1’s quickest and most challenging corners.

Video: Lap of Silverstone with Jenson Button, 2011

The drivers’ favorite: Suzuka Japan

Along with Spa, the sinuous Suzuka circuit with its unique crossover is regularly named by drivers as one of their favorites.

Not just because of the demanding opening sector, the high-speed corners and the enthusiasm of Japan’s fans. But because it is one of a dwindling number of circuits where a mistake is punished by contact with a barrier instead of a long drive through a wasteland of tarmac run-off.

The newest: Circuit of the Americas, USA

The home of the United States Grand Prix was an instant hit when it held its first race last year. The complex opening sector is among its best features – and of course the warm welcome from American fans who’d gone five years without a race of their own.

The rest

The city of Melbourne welcomes the teams to round one. The opening flyaway tour includes Malaysia, China and Bahrain before heading to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Canada’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve often provides exciting races. The German Grand Prix returns to the (short) Nurburgring this year.

A hectic sequence of final races begins with the Singapore night race and takes in Korea, India and Abu Dhabi. The United States Grand Prix on November 17th begin a double-header finale which concludes with the Brazilian Grand Prix in the feverish atmosphere of Interlagos in Sao Paulo.

F1 Primer

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.