By Kelly Batke - Motorsport.com McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen celebrated his birthday by capturing the fastest time on the first day of practice for the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Hakkinen, who has announced he will take a year off racing...
By Kelly Batke - Motorsport.com
McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen celebrated his birthday by capturing the fastest time on the first day of practice for the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
Hakkinen, who has announced he will take a year off racing next season, leapt ahead of the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello with only 10 minutes remaining in the second free practice session. Teammate David Coulthard finished 4th ahead of the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine and the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld.
The first practice session looked bleak for the Finn, as a troubled engine limited him to only 4 laps on the track. However, Hakkinen quickly gained ground in the second hour setting a lap time of 1:13.387, almost a full second faster than last year's pole position. After leading most of the day, Michael Schumacher could do no better than 2nd.
The Williams of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Montoya were surprisingly uncompetitive, finishing the second practice in 9th and 10th position.
Several drivers fell victim to the twisty infield of the circuit. Jarno Trulli spun several times across the grass while Juan Montoya was momentarily stuck on the track into the start of the oval at turn 11. Other spinouts included the Minardi of Alex Yoong and the Prost of Czech driver Thomas Enge.
The Jaguars appeared to conquer the balance problems the suffered early in the morning as they finished the second session in 5th and 8th place. Heinz-Harald Frentzen continued his excellence for Prost by setting the 7th fastest time.
The attendance at Indianapolis was noticeably down following the recent tragedies in the United States. Those fans that did visit were subject to increased security checks. Many drivers and teams continued to pay some sort of a tribute. The Jordan's, once labeled "Bitten and Hisses", now read "Bitten Heroes", while the American flag was present on the helmet of Ralf Schumacher.