Schumacher flies in morning practice

Michael Schumacher stole the limelight again in Saturday morning practice for the Australian Grand Prix

Schumacher flies in morning practice

The Ferrari driver waited until the dying minutes of the session before leaping to the top of the timesheets, beating McLaren's David Coulthard by over 0.5s.

World champion Mika Hakkinen had a miserable time, his McLaren-Mercedes ground to a halt with an electrical problem before the Finn had completed a single lap.

'When I went round the first corner it just cut out,' he said. 'It's not going to help.'

The session was red-flagged briefly after Jenson Button put his Williams-BMW into the wall. The left side of the car was heavily damaged and Button was taken to the medical centre for checks.

He had been fifth fastest at the time, but lost control at turn five, a fast kink.

'I was pushing very hard in the first sector when I clipped a kerb and just lost it,' he explained.

The car should be repaired in time for qualifying.

Coulthard was second fastest ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli.

The Scot's first flying lap was over 1.5s faster than anyone else had managed up to that point, and his dominant position seemed secure until Schumacher's late charge.

Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve set impressive times in the new Williams-BMW and BAR-Honda combinations, ending the session sixth and seventh fastest.

Coulthard and Villeneuve were among several drivers to have off-course moments during the session, both running wide over the grass and kerbs.

Jean Alesi had to park his Prost after a particularly violent trip over the rumble strips but Ricardo Zonta and Pedro Diniz escaped similar moments unscathed, as did Rubens Barrichello, who spun his Ferrari at turn nine.

Morning practice resumes in half an hour. Hakkinen should be able to take part in the session in his repaired McLaren, but Button will have to miss the rest of practice while his Williams is rebuilt.

Times from Melbourne:

















































































































1


Michael Schumacher


Ferrari


1m30.439s


2


David Coulthard


McLaren-Mercedes


1m30.958s


3


Heinz-Harald Frentzen


Jordan-Mugen Honda


1m31.020s


4


Rubens Barrichello


Ferrari


1m31.366s


5


Jarno Trulli


Jordan-Mugen Honda


1m31.692s


6


Ralf Schumacher


Williams-BMW


1m31.987s


7


Jacques Villeneuve


BAR-Honda


1m32.113s


8


Johnny Herbert


Jaguar


1m32.131s


9


Giancarlo Fisichella


Benetton-Playlife


1m32.382s


10


Eddie Irvine


Jaguar


1m32.399s


11


Pedro de la Rosa


Arrows-Supertec


1m32.687s


12


Alex Wurz


Benetton-Playlife


1m32.795s


13


Pedro Diniz


Sauber-Petronas


1m32.921s


14


Gaston Mazzacane


Minardi-Fondmetal


1m33.039s


15


Jos Verstappen


Arrows-Supertec


1m33.164s


16


Marc Gene


Minardi-Fondmetal


1m33.178s


17


Mika Salo


Sauber-Petronas


1m33.249s


18


Jean Alesi


Prost-Peugeot


1m33.287s


19


Ricardo Zonta


BAR-Honda


1m33.675s


20


Jenson Button


Williams-BMW


1m33.791s


21


Nick Heidfeld


Prost-Peugeot


1m34.109s


22


Mika Hakkinen


McLaren-Mercedes


no time

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