McLaren hits back in Hungary

David Coulthard reaffirmed McLaren's superiority in Formula 1 by topping the times for the second practice session of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Scot and his team-mate Mika Hakkinen were the only two drivers to break into the 1m18 bracket

McLaren hits back in Hungary

Michael Schumacher had been fastest in the first session, but a confident McLaren was the only team not to send either of its drivers out for the first hour. When the second session started, however, both Hakkinen and Coulthard were out from the beginning, making it plain that Ferrari's easy domination of the first hour was something of a false dawn.

In fact, the silver cars took a while to get themselves dialled into the twists and turns of the low-grip Hungaroring. Hakkinen moved to fourth on his first flying lap, with approximately seven minutes of the session gone. Schumacher went out to try and push his time of the morning out of reach, but it was not to be. Coulthard scorched to second fastest time with mere 11 minutes of the practice gone, despite a near-collision with Johnny Herbert's Jaguar, as the Englishman exited the pits.

After another two flying laps, Coulthard was fastest.

It appeared that Coulthard had managed to rekindle a little of the form that saw him dominate at Silverstone and Magny Cours, and his team-mate seemed unable to do anything but chase. Admittedly the Finn was hot on his heels after languishing in sixth with half the session gone. Ahead of him was the surprising Benetton of Giancarlo Fisichella and Eddie Irvine's Jaguar which was gamely hanging onto the top few after setting his time in the first session.

Michael Schumacher, however, proved that he wasn't willing to lie down and accept McLaren's dominance. After 28 minutes of the practice, he went fastest again with a lap of 1m19.138.

Hakkinen was about to do damage to the possibility that Schumacher might be able to split the McLarens. The Finn moved to second, less than 0.1s off Schumacher. No sooner had this happened than Coulthard rocketed back into the top spot, with a stunning lap of 1m18.812.

Meanwhile, some of the previous upsets to the form book this season appeared to be struggling. Though the Arrows cars displayed their usual straightline speed prowess - Pedro de la Rosa was consistently fastest though the first speed trap - grip appeared to be more of a problem, and the orange and black cars languished in the last few places. They would end the session in the lower reaches of the teens.

The Williams cars, taking a different approach to the Arrows team, piled the aerodynamic downforce creating addenda onto their FW22, and were around 10kmh slower than the top speeds through the speed traps. However, they appeared to sort their set-up with minutes to go, launching Jenson Button and Ralf Schumacher into the top ten.

Jacques Villeneuve, 'best of the rest' on several occasions this year also looked uncomfortable in the BAR, though he was able to leap from 17th to 10th near the end of the session. Even so, he would end the session 14th. It was another dismal session for his team-mate Ricardo Zonta, after a few more promising races. The Brazilian spun several times and ended up second last, beating only the Minardi of Gaston Mazzacane. With minutes to go, the Brazilian spun on the first corner and ended up beached on a kerb, unable to improve on 21st.

At the top of the field, however, the battle continued. Rubens Barrichello appeared a little left behind by the top three's tussle, but was still 0.3s faster than Jarno Trulli by the session's end. However, he was over a second off Coulthard's final time, which was a stunning lap of 1m18.792 set with about 15 minutes of the session remaining.

Hakkinen soon dashed Schumacher's hopes of splitting the silver cars, and will have to pull something special out of the bag if he is to get onto the front row for Sunday's race, where qualifying well is likely to be paramount. The Finn also dipped into the 1m18s bracket with a 1m18.943, though this still left Coulthard comfortably ahead by the chequered flag.

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