Hakkinen dominates qualifying

Mika Hakkinen bounced back spectacularly after his disastrous morning practice session to take a dominant pole position for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix

Hakkinen dominates qualifying

The McLaren driver only managed four laps in practice after his car cut out while leaving the pits. The team changed the engine, gearbox and ECU on his car in a record 42 minutes, but Hakkinen still had virtually no running this morning.

Nevertheless, he still set the pace virtually from the moment he hit the track in qualifying, eventually securing pole by 0.4s.

'It's always very difficult to go directly into qualifying after not running in the morning,' he admitted.

David Coulthard looked like he might prove a tough obstacle for his team-mate, but a mid-session set-up change failed to improve his car and the Scot was unable to take the fight to Hakkinen.

He later brought out the red flags by crashing heavily on his final run, removing the rear wing and left rear wheel of his McLaren as he hit the wall backwards on the exit of Stewart corner, the scene of Schumacher's heavy practice accident.

'I just lost the back end,' Coulthard admitted. 'I was trying to make up some time. I'd been struggling with understeer all session and we ran out of time to make a change.'

Michael Schumacher was third, making several mistakes on fast laps. He looked capable of snatching pole on his final run but had to abandon the lap after Coulthard's crash brought the session to a premature end.

'We didn't get the best out of the tyres,' Schumacher said. 'But I'm not worried. Honestly, it doesn't matter if you are first or if you are third.

'We had a chance to be on pole and if you look at past years that's a big improvement. So I'm confident for tomorrow.'

His new team-mate Rubens Barrichello was only 0.1s slower in fourth place. The Brazilian had also looked like a potential candidate for pole, twice setting the fastest time in the first part of the lap. He wasted his first chance by spinning at turn 15, then lost another opportunity when Marc Gene had a spin and brought out the yellow flags.

The Jordans of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli will start from row three, ahead of Eddie Irvine's Jaguar. Irvine completed several wild looking laps but was only fractionally slower than the Jordans.

Johnny Herbert had another miserable session, hampered by unreliability on his Jaguar he will start way down in 20th position.

Fellow Brit Jenson Button's difficult Formula One initiation continued. After his heavy accident this morning, Button suffered technical problems with his repaired racecar and had to switch to the spare Williams.

Stuck with team-mate Ralf Schumacher's set-up, he only managed one proper qualifying run and only made it to 21st on the grid.

'It was not a session we want to repeat,' said Williams Senior Operations Manager James Robinson. 'The T-car had Ralf's suspension settings so it was very difficult for Jenson to jump into and set a time.'

Jacques Villeneuve took a surprise eighth place in the unfancied BAR-Honda, narrowly pipping Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton, another car that had been widely dismissed after disappointing winter testing times.

Mika Salo did a good job to sneak into the top ten in his Sauber, ahead of Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW and the two Arrows-Supertecs, which didn't quite live up to their pre-season promise but still look like a very competitive package.

Jos Verstappen survived a late scare when his right rear suspension collapsed on his final run, but the Dutchman was able to bring the car under control without hitting anything.

Alex Wurz will start 14th, while rookie Nick Heidfeld outpaced his Prost team-mate Jean Alesi to take 15th position. Ricardo Zonta and Marc Gene both ended their sessions in the gravel but will start 16th and 18th respectively.

Qualifying times from Melbourne:

















































































































1


M Hakkinen


McLaren


1m30.556s


2


D Coulthard


McLaren


1m30.910s


3


M Schumacher


Ferrari


1m31.075s


4


R Barrichello


Ferrari


1m31.102s


5


H-H Frentzen


Jordan


1m31.359s


6


J Trulli


Jordan


1m31.504s


7


E Irvine


Jaguar


1m31.514s


8


J Villeneuve


BAR


1m31.968s


9


G Fisichella


Benetton


1m31.992s


10


M Salo


Sauber


1m32.018s


11


R Schumacher


Williams


1m32.220s


12


P de la Rosa


Arrows


1m32.323s


13


J Verstappen


Arrows


1m32.477s


14


A Wurz


Benetton


1m32.775s


15


N Heidfeld


Prost


1m33.024s


16


R Zonta


BAR


1m33.117s


17


J Alesi


Prost


1m33.197s


18


M Gene


Minardi


1m33.261s


19


P Diniz


Sauber


1m33.378s


20


J Herbert


Jaguar


1m33.638s


21


J Button


Williams


1m33.828s


22


G Mazzacane


Minardi


1m34.705s

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