Free practice 3: Ralf avoids incident to go fastest

In a session interrupted by oil spills and accidents, Ralf Schumacher put in a late flying lap in his Williams-BMW to top the time sheets in Saturday's first free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix

Free practice 3: Ralf avoids incident to go fastest

Jacques Villeneuve finished second ahead of David Coulthard in third, while Michael Schumacher settled for fourth in his Ferrari.

A blown Asiatech engine in the Arrows of Jos Verstappen 20 minutes into the session left a trail of oil from the swimming pool section of the Monte Carlo circuit right round into the pit lane.

The spillage saw to it that the session's times would mean little, as much of the grip laid down by Thursday's running had been lost. The Monaco marshals set to work and the session was stopped to allow street sweepers onto the track to help clean up.

The cars gingerly left the pit lane with 25 minutes left to run. Eddie Irvine looked set to hold onto the fastest time with his lap of 1m25.078s set before the spillage as drivers struggled for grip. The Ulsterman's time, however, soon dropped down the order as soon as the frontrunners took to the track.

With grip levels increasing towards the end of the session, a late flurry of activity saw a handful of different drivers at the top. Coulthard put in a time of 1m21.200s with 10 minutes to go in his McLaren, but was demoted to second by Schumacher Jr just five minutes later.

With only three minutes remaining, the session looked set to be stopped again as the Prost of Luciano Burti mysteriously veered left at the right-handed Sainte Devote corner at the end of the pit straight. The Brazilian's AP04 suffered a suspected mechanical failure and crashed heavily into the tyre barrier, narrowly missing several parked rescue vehicles. Despite the ferocity of the impact, Burti escaped unhurt.

Only Villeneuve and Schumacher set times once the yellow flags disappeared after Burti's accident, with the BAR driver demoting Coulthard to third while world champ Schumacher finished fourth.

For practice session 3 results, click here.

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