Coulthard fastest in warm-up but de la Rosa stars

No sooner had the warm-up session for the German Grand Prix got underway, than two of the field had taken each other out. On a bizarre out-lap accident seconds after the clock had started, Jacques Villeneuve and Jos Verstappen contrived to collide at the Clark chicane

Coulthard fastest in warm-up but de la Rosa stars

This brought out the waved yellow flags, as both cars were still parked on the track and blocking most of its width.

Shock top-10 qualifiers Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine set the early pace in their Jaguar R1s, before the Williams of Ralf Schumacher moved ahead. The eagerness of the field to get laps in reflected the fact that there has been remarkably little dry running time this weekend, and with a dry race on the cards, all but three of the drivers had set a time in the first 10 minutes of the half-hour session.

David Coulthard was the first of the usual suspects to show his hand, but some of the less familiar runners who had benefitted from the variable weather in qualifying showed themselves eager to prove that wasn't a fluke. Arrows' Pedro de la Rosa and Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella held spots in the top five before the expected front-runners hooked a lap together. De la Rosa kept it all together, and at the end of the session popped into third place, a position held until then by Heinz Harald Frentzen. The German clearly had his Jordan performing as he wished, and was a regular name in the top five for most of the session. He finished 5th, having also been beaten towards the end by Michael Schumacher.

Coulthard's light indeed shone brightly, but briefly; the Scot piled his McLaren MP4-15 into the barriers in the stadium section. He lost the back end of the car in the penultimate bend, caught it, and spun again into the last corner, leading to speculation that something on his car may have broken. With 10 minutes remaining, the Scot was ready to go out once more in the spare car. As it transpired, this was unnecessary, as Coulthard's 1m44.065s lap set 10 minutes in was not bettered. His race car had sustained only light damage on its trip across the gravel, mainly a dislodged front wing, and would almost certainly reappear for the race.

The beleaguered Prost-Peugeot squad suffered further embarrassment when Nick Heidfeld's engine cover disintegrated on the approach to the Ostkurve. This brought the waved yellow flags out, but apparently with insufficient distance warning the drivers. Many were forced to swerve to avoid a large chunk of debris on the track, and after his quick lap de la Rosa ran right over the carbon fibre wreckage and sustained a puncture in the process.

By the end of the session, the order was the McLaren drivers - Hakkinen had failed in his efforts to dislodge Coulthard, despite the latter's troubles - followed by de la Rosa and Michael Schumacher, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen's fifth spot making a mix of the usual front-runners and a few 'wild cards' at the front. De la Rosa's storming performance at the A1-Ring appears not to have been a one-off, and the Spaniard must be considered a dark horse for a podium spot, as long as his Arrows-Supertec holds together.

For full warm-up times click here.

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