Hakkinen dominates crash-interrupted warm-up

Spa Francorchamps - round 13 of the F1 World Championship, and unlucky 13 for Giancarlo Fisichella - or lucky 13, depending on how you look at it

Hakkinen dominates crash-interrupted warm-up

The Italian was bidding to improve his eighth fastest time in the wet warm-up session for today's Grand Prix, when his Benetton snapped sideways on the approach to Stavelot, and smashed into the tyre barriers where the new part of the circuit rejoins the old. The Benetton was utterly destroyed as it piled into the tyre barriers, and came to rest upside down on the car's roll hoop. Fortunately the safety cell had done its job admirably, and minutes after the accident, Fisichella was standing by the remains of the B200, conversing with the marshals.

Mika Hakkinen dominated the session, seemingly able to answer any challenge to his supremacy with an effortless return to the top.

The session started wet, prompting much speculation that this would throw the ball back into Michael Schumacher's court. If it was the case, the twice world champion was content to hide his light under a bushel for much of the session while stars of qualifying Hakkinen and Jenson Button made the running.

Saturday's balmy 25 degrees plunged to a less than tepid 14, as mist hung over the Ardennes forest at the start of morning warm-up. In the afternoon temperatures are predicted to increase, but no let-up in the rain is forecast...

Schumacher held third for much of the session, until Fisichella's shunt brought out the red flags while the debris was cleared and the tyre barrier fixed. David Coulthard held a watching brief in fourth while Jean Alesi, always one to relish the equalising powers of the wet, found his Prost a more amenable prospect with water on the track, to run fifth.

As the track re-opened, however, Schumacher showed his true colours to top the times with a 2.04.998, followed by his brother in the Williams. The track appeared to be drying, however, and times began to steadily tumble. Coulthard went top, followed by Herbert, with five minutes remaining, before Mika Hakkinen reasserted himself at the head of the timesheets.

Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello appeared much happier on the wet tarmac than he had in qualifying, reminding of the 1994 event where he took pole in a less-than-fancied Jordan Hart. The Brazilian jumped to the top of the times, before being firmly demoted by Hakkinen who, it was beginning to appear, was determined to finish quickest. As the clock ran out, Barrichello was still second but a number of drivers still had laps to complete.

The final order reflected the fact that the track appeared to be drying, with two of the top four places set after the clock had stopped, while Villeneuve managed to crash his BAR in the attempt. Schumacher jumped back up to second, and promptly took a trip across the gravel, while Button, desperate to show that his qualifying performance was no fluke, took third.

Johnny Herbert continued his promising weekend with 7th fastest, while new Toyota signing Mika Salo wound up sixth.

For full warm-up times, click here.


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