Michael Schumacher's Ferrari topped the timesheets in the first free practice session for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix. But the only other man with a tenuous shot at the title, David Coulthard, started the weekend on a low note by ripping the floor out of his McLaren-Mercedes on a kerb and red-flagging the session.
Schumacher needs to win in Budapest, or merely outscore Coulthard by three points to guarantee his fourth world title and the German started as he means to go on by finishing the session as the only man to to dip into the 1m16s bracket.
The Ferrari number one looked to be getting a run for his money from team mate Rubens Barrichello as the Brazilian occupied the top spot for much of the hour-long session. However, Schumacher was not to be outdone and put in a flying lap with 10 minutes to go.
Mika Hakkinen was first up of the two McLaren-Mercedes drivers and not title rival Coulthard. Hakkinen won in Hungary last year and finished the session third.
Coulthard, meanwhile, contrived to straight-line the chicane at Turn 12 after overcooking it on the entry. The savage kerbing made a meal of his McLaren's undertray, leaving shards of carbon fibre all over the track and bringing out the red flags with just under five minutes to go.
Ralf Schumacher was the highest Michelin runner in fifth place in his Williams-BMW. The German GP winner jumped up just behind Coulthard during the last 10 minutes, but not before he went off into the gravel at Turn 1. Schuey Jr managed to avoid bringing his session to a premature end by reversing out of the kitty litter and deftly pirouetting on the grass to rejoin the track.
Team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, on the other hand, struggled in the second Williams. The Colombian has not driven at the Hungaroroing since his Formula 3000 days in 1998 and he finished this morning's first session a disappointing 16th.
Nick Heidfeld managed to hustle his Sauber around the tight and twisty track in 1m18.851s, which was good enough sixth place, just ahead of the Jordan of Jarno Trulli. The Italian showed the Silverstone-based team is still the lead Honda outfit after finishing ahead of the BARs of stablemates Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve in eighth and ninth. Kimi Raikkonen rounded out he top 10 in the second Sauber.
Unsurprisingly, Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were the first men out of the pits as the session started, in order to get as much time in their new Jordan and Prost cars respectively. In the end the pair wound up within 0.050s of each other as Alesi (19th)ended up in the gravel 20 minutes in and Frenzten (18th) struggled with understeer. (For full Frentzen/Alesi analysis, click HERE.)
For full practice session 1 results click here.
Tuscany / Results
Standings / After 9 races
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|Emilia Romagna||Imola||1 Nov|
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Berlin / Results
|2||Nyck de Vries||47m23.447s|
Standings / After 11 races
|1||Antonio Felix da Costa||158|
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