Hakkinen tops interrupted qualifying

Mika Hakkinen has triumphed in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, despite rain showers and no less than three red flags interrupting the session

Hakkinen tops interrupted qualifying

Once again it appeared that there was little to choose between the McLaren and Ferrari teams early in the session. Heavy clouds gathering in the skies led to a somewhat frenzied dash to set times early on, with Zonta the first driver on the track.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was confident of challenging the McLarens, but as in Australia, the German had a scrappy qualifying session, on one occasion understeering onto the grass and damaging his front wing.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the first driver to set a quick time, predicting a competitive performance from the Italian all afternoon. The Benetton driver was fifth, playing the session cannily between red flags and rain showers, to beat all but the McLarens and Ferraris.

Jenson Button looked like being the greatest beneficiary of the first rain, as he posted 6th fastest time just before a shower. Fortunately for his rivals, the track dried sufficiently to let the session resume.

Sauber looked to be in trouble, when Diniz's rear wing broke due to vibration. The same thing had happened to his team mate Salo in the morning, and rather than risk the drivers, Sauber sat out the rest of the session.

From the halfway point, the session was interuppted three times by red flags. The advertising hoardings by the trackside had begun to fall down, and the final straw came when a piece fell onto Jean Alesi's Prost as he passed.

This led Rubens Barrichello to abort a lap that could potentially have moved him onto the front row. After the qualifying was stopped, rain began to fall, and though the track began to slowly dry, times thereafter were still nearly ten seconds off what they had been.

Jordan had a disappointing session, considering their competitiveness hitherto. Jarno Trulli had seemed very competitive in practice, but before he had completed a lap, spun into the gravel at the second hairpin. He resumed in the spare, but then suffered a gearbox failure.

Jaguar however, had cause for praise with Irvine's 6th place. Herbert, however, had his best lap spoiled by a red flag, and will start from 17th.

The race will be a battle, once again, between McLaren and Ferrari it appears. McLaren would seem to have the edge, but the pace of Barrichello's last, aborted, lap suggests it will be very close. Less than half a second covers the top four, with the next quickest runner over 0.7 seconds behind.

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