Sport on the Internet

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The Independent Online
PREPARATIONS ARE underway at Albert Park, Melbourne, as Australia gets ready to host the first grand prix of the 1999 Formula One world championship on Sunday. Formula One racing pages on the World Wide Web are gearing up for the green light on a new season too.

The official 1999 Qantas Australian Grand Prix site is the first place to check out in the run-up to the event. It's a good-looking site, if a little over designed. The buttons at the bottom of the page, for example, are nifty graphics, but what they represent isn't immediately apparent until your mouse rolls over them and a text label is displayed. It's the main site navigation method and it is cumbersome.

Once past that, though, things improve. The news section is comprehensive and covers the whole of F1, not just the Aussie race, so if you want to find out about the 27,000 who turned up to watch Formula One testing in South Africa recently, you can. Under the venue link, there's probably the best Albert Park circuit map to be found on the Web.

The circuit map at F1 Today is a mere diagram by comparison, but that's a minor gripe because the physical description of the circuit and the statistics about previous winners and lap records is well presented. The news coverage of Formula One here is comprehensive and it's complemented by interviews with drivers, such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen and officials such as John Harnden of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

If you want to trace the home pages of drivers and constructors, the links provided by F1 Today are well laid out. On the front page, a mouse click on team drivers takes you to a list of the 1999 contingent and who they are driving for this year. Clicking on individual drivers brings up a biography and links to their own and their teams home pages.

Those who prefer their information to come in graphical, rather than written, form can stop off at Pitlane, which is currently updating its site for the new season. It has links to race information, but its main claim to fame is its online galleries: driver portraits, drivers with the new cars, team and crew group shots etc.

F1 Rumors Site prides itself on "news ahead of the headlines". Rumours about whether Mika Salo would make the Arrow's line-up for Melbourne and beyond were prominent last week, ditto McLaren sailing close to the wind with the latest tech specs for their 1999 car.

Elsewhere, F1 Rumors offers in-depth analysis of racing issues, fantasy Formula One leagues and an e-mail discussion list for those who want to ensure that they always catch the latest gossip. They run surveys too and prediction stakes - Michael Schumacher to win in Melbourne from Mika Hakkinen with Damon Hill taking third was the verdict of the voters last week.

F1 would be incomplete without the dulcet, yet excited, tones of Murray Walker. The Murray Walker Quotes Page provides his legendary insights only in text form, but it's impossible to read them without the voice of the man himself coming to life inside your head.