Hakkinen sets pace in final practice

Mika Hakkinen got the jump on title rival Michael Schumacher in final practice to set up a qualifying thriller in Japan

Hakkinen sets pace in final practice

The world champion set the fastest time in the final untimed session for the Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher had dominated Friday practice setting the fastest time by six-tenths of a second.

On Saturday morning the championship leaders form continued as he headed the first session with Hakkinen a lowly 12th as he played with car set-up.

But 15 minutes before the end of the second session Hakkinen's work on his car finally came good as he finally hit the front with a 1m37.037s lap, just a tenth ahead of his Ferrari rival who was second.

Hakkinen has never started from pole here but has won the race for the last two years and needs a third successive victory to have a realistic chance of snatching the title from Schumacher at the last round in Malaysia in two weeks time.

Schumacher, who has an eight point lead, only needs to win on Sunday to become Ferrari's first champion in 21 years.

Jenson Button put in a blistering last minute flier to steal third fastest with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello fourth and
Ralf Schumacher fifth.

Schumacher junior briefly went fastest in the final 10 minutes but his time was deleted for cutting the chicane.

David Coulthard was sixth quickest and Giancarlo Fisichella seventh with Eddie Irvine, Alexander Wurz and Jacques Villeneuve rounding out the top 10.

Villeneuve continued his 100 per cent spin record as he spun into the sand in the final practice session - making his fourth mis-cue this weekend as BAR attempt to put in a strong showing for Honda on their home turf.

Ricardo Zonta didn't have much better luck as he overcooked First Curve and spun into the gravel.

Sauber's Pedro Diniz was dropped to the bottom of the times after he had his two fastest laps deleted by the stewards for circling the track back to the pits leaking oil, rather than stopping but in the final minutes pulled himself above the Minardis to 20th.

Click here for final practice times.

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