INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 28, 2001 - Mika Hakkinen may be saying farewell to Formula One for at least a year in the upcoming weeks, but he isn't leaving without showing his trademark speed. Two-time World Champion Hakkinen was quickest in the...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 28, 2001 - Mika Hakkinen may be saying farewell to Formula One for at least a year in the upcoming weeks, but he isn't leaving without showing his trademark speed.
Two-time World Champion Hakkinen was quickest in the opening practice Sept. 28 for the SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a top lap of 1 minute, 13.387 seconds at 127.778 mph in his West McLaren-Mercedes. Hakkinen announced earlier this month that he will take a one-year sabbatical from F1 next year but has not indicated that he will return in 2003.
"Today was a great day," said Hakkinen, celebrating his 33rd birthday today. "We did good with the car. It responded well to the changes. The balance is really good. What is my motivation? I want to win. I love racing cars. That is it.
"The day started a little bit negative because we had a technical problem. We weren't able to run much the first hour, so we ran the whole second hour. It was very, very difficult in particular for the mechanics. They changed engines in 35 minutes. Finding the right racing line was quite easy, but finding the right balance, the right setup for the car was quite complicated."
Reigning World Champion and defending event champion Michael Schumacher was second quickest at 1:13.552, 127.491 in his Ferrari. Schumacher led the morning practice on the 2.606-mile road circuit at 1:14.085, 126.574 and led most of the second practice until Hakkinen posted his quickest lap with 12 minutes remaining.
"It was a pretty normal Friday, today," Schumacher said. "We just did our usual work of adapting the car to the circuit. There were no particular problems. Aside from that, I am happy to be racing here in the U.S.A., and I hope that this weekend's grand prix will entertain the crowd and bring some happiness and relief after the terrible events of a fortnight ago."
McLaren and Ferrari monopolized the first four spots overall. Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher's teammate, was third at 1:13.584, 127.436, while David Coulthard, Hakkinen's teammate, was fourth at 1:13.656, 127.311.
Eddie Irvine put in a strong showing for Jaguar Racing, fifth overall at 1:13.806, 127.052.
The one-hour qualifying for the event starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Saturday, setting the grid for Sunday's race. The pursuit for the pole should be very quick and tight, if today's practice was any indication.
Less than one second separated the top 15 drivers, and the top 14 drivers were quicker than Schumacher's pole time of 1:14.266 from last year's SAP United States Grand Prix.
One of the surprising developments of today's practice was the sluggish performance by BMW WilliamsF1 Team drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. They were expected to be among the fastest drivers at this event due to a powerful BMW engine well suited for the long straightaway at Indianapolis and recent success, including Montoya winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 16 and poles at three of the last four races.
But Ralf Schumacher was only ninth quickest at 1:13.919, with Montoya right behind in 10th at 1:13.983.
"It's been quite a difficult day for us," Montoya said. "We're struggling a bit with the balance of the car, but it's fun to be here. We'll work on it, and I think we can make it much better."
Said Ralf Schumacher: "There was no grip in the infield. We need to get a lot more rubber there. We tried different things so we shouldn't look too closely at today's rankings. There are changes to come tomorrow."