Free practice 4: Hakkinen blasts to the front

After failing to set a time in the first of Saturday morning's practice sessions, Mika Hakkinen stormed to the top of the timesheets in the second and set his sights on pole position for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix. In the final session before qualifying, the Finn set a time of 1m18.282s, more than a second faster than last year's pole time, to put him ahead of the two Schumacher brothers, Michael then Ralf, in second and third

Free practice 4: Hakkinen blasts to the front

Hakkinen made his intentions clear on his very first flying lap of the day, by jumping straight to the top, and although team mate David Coulthard went quicker on the next lap, Hakkinen had proved his point.

But the McLaren driver didn't have it all his own way. As the times steadily dropped, championship leader Michael Schumacher stunned the paddock with a lap of 1m18.456s with just eight minutes gone - a whole one and a half seconds quicker than any of his rivals. And it looked as though McLaren and the rest of the field would be unable to get close to the Ferrari driver's time until Hakkinen came out with just over 10 minutes to go.

The double world champ put in two storming laps, both quicker than Schumacher's, but it was the first of the Finn's laps that sent him to the top of the tables, almost two tenths quicker than the Ferrari.

The session had its usual list of casualties, as drivers pushed the limits of their machines just a little too far. Minardi's young charger Fernando Alonso spun at Loews, but, showing admirable confidence, the young Spaniard was able to correct his car by doughnuting the PS01 on the tight street circuit, just inches away from the barriers.

Then Heinz-Harald Frentzen had his session cut short when his EJ11 came to a halt on the run up to Casino Square. This caused a lengthy yellow-flag period as marshals rolled his Jordan down the hill to get lifted off the circuit.

And Kimi Raikkonen, while on a very quick lap, put his Sauber in the wall in the Swimming Pool complex just before Hakkinen set his fastest time. Another youngster, Enrique Bernoldi, put his Arrows into the wall at La Rascasse. The front wing of his car broke off on impact and was rather comically collected by the front suspension of Hakkinen's McLaren, who took it back with him to the pits.

The action heated up with just minutes to go as the rest of the field set their sights on Hakkinen's time. The Michelin-shod cars were running well and Eddie Irvine popped up to fifth, setting the fastest third sector time along the way. Then Ralf Schumacher put in an impressive lap to take third place from the McLaren of David Coulthard.

Any thoughts Michael Schumacher had of retaking the fastest time were stymied when Giancarlo Fisichella spun at La Rascasse in the closing minutes. As the marshals tried to get his Benetton out of the way, a traffic jam of F1 cars built up in the Swimming Pool complex and Hakkinen's place at the top was safe.

Further down, Jarno Trulli, who qualified second here last year, set the sixth quickest time, followed by the second Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya. Rubens Barrichello couldn't quite hook up a fast lap due to traffic and found himself eighth quickest heading in to qualifiying.

Veteran Jean Alesi again impressed, keeping his Prost in the top 10, going ninth quickest ahead of Heinz-Harald's stricken Jordan.

For full results click here.

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Saturday Second Free Practice - Monaco GP

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