Saturday Second Free Practice - Japanese GP

Hakkinen-Schumacher set for pole battle

Saturday Second Free Practice - Japanese GP

Hakkinen-Schumacher set for pole battle

After Mika Hakkinen lowered last year's pole winning time by almost half a second and took the top spot of this morning's final free practice session by just over a tenth of a second from Michael Schumacher, the two Championship contenders are set for an exciting battle for pole in this afternoon's qualifying session. It was another trouble free session for the McLaren team, Hakkinen finally running a fresh set of tyres in the second half of the session to set his best time. David Coulthard ended up sixth fastest in the second McLaren, the Scot losing time in the first half of the session when he went off on oil over a gravel trap. He was also evaluating a new front wing during the session.

Schumacher up for the fight

Michael Schumacher fine tuned his Ferrari this morning, but just failed to match the quickest lap of Hakkinen. A quick lap at the end of the session was spoiled when he slid straight on at the chicane. Rubens Barrichello was fourth fastest; his practice interrupted again by another spin into a gravel trap in the first half of the session.

Button ahead for Williams

Jenson Button was showing no signs of being intimidated by the impressive Suzuka circuit, having studied the TV recordings since yesterday, the young Williams driver throwing his car around with gay abandon to set the third fastest time, more than happy with the way his car was performing here. Ralf Schumacher was unable to better fifth fastest, his best lap on a fresh set of tyres spoiled when he went straight on over the chicane which saw his time withdrawn.

Fisichella back on form

Giancarlo Fisichella made it back up to seventh place for Benetton this morning, the Italian happy with the balance of his car this morning, but complaining of a lack of grip and traction in the slower corners. Wurz took ninth fastest, but was complaining of too much understeer from his car.

Irvine looking for top ten spot

Eddie Irvine was happier with his Jaguar this morning after setting the eighth quickest time of the session. He had a trip around the gravel trap at the Spooncurve during the session after a problem with his car's throttle system saw him go straight on. Johnny Herbert was still not happy with the handling of his car and did not better 14th fastest.

BAR drivers still struggling

Jacques Villeneuve took the tenth fastest time of the session, but was still not happy with the handling of BAR-Honda, which did not have the grip he was hoping for. He had two more spins this morning, the second at very high speed out of 130R corner, but he managed to avoid hitting anything on both occasions. Ricardo Zonta was also struggling back in 16th place, his efforts at a quick lap ending up in a gravel trap when he spun off.

In brief...

Both Jordan drivers were well back in the pack this morning. Trulli lost a lot of time when he went of on oil at the hairpin and got stuck the gravel trap for half the session. He got going to take 12th fastest while Frentzen did not better 17th, the German complaining about the handling of his car which had gone so well yesterday.

Pedro Diniz lost most of the session after his Sauber suffered an oil leak/fire on his first lap out of the pits. After a couple of cars went off on the oil dropped as he drove back to the pits, he was given the penalty of losing his two fastest qualifying laps this afternoon for having not parked and walked home.

Nick Heidfeld complained of understeer and no grip from his Prost, while Alesi complained of everything saying his car was 'Not together,' this morning after setting 19th fastest time.

Pos Driver Team Times 1. Hakkinen McLaren Mercedes 1:37.037 217.550 km/h 2. M.Schumacher Ferrari 1:37.176 + 0.139 3. Button Williams BMW 1:37.244 + 0.207 4. Barrichello Ferrari 1:37.260 + 0.223 5. R.Schumacher Williams BMW 1:37.493 + 0.456 6. Coulthard McLaren Mercedes 1:37.503 + 0.466 7. Fisichella Benetton Playlife 1:37.739 + 0.702 8. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth 1:37.893 + 0.856 9. Wurz Benetton Playlife 1:38.257 + 1.220 10. Villeneuve BAR Honda 1:38.422 + 1.385 11. de la Rosa Arrows Supertec 1:38.438 + 1.401 12. Trulli Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:38.471 + 1.434 13. Verstappen Arrows Supertec 1:38.578 + 1.541 14. Herbert Jaguar Cosworth 1:38.590 + 1.553 15. Heidfeld Prost Peugeot 1:38.758 + 1.721 16. Zonta BAR Honda 1:38.868 + 1.831 17. Frentzen Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:38.872 + 1.835 18. Salo Sauber Petronas 1:38.921 + 1.884 19. Alesi Prost Peugeot 1:39.225 + 2.188 20. Diniz Sauber Petronas 1:39.960 + 2.923 21. Gene Minardi Fondmetal 1:40.185 + 3.148 22. Mazzacane Minardi Fondmetal 1:41.210 + 4.173

All timing unofficial

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