Ferrari's Michael Schumacher topped the timesheets in the opening Grand Prix practice session in Melbourne today.

The German clocked a time almost half a second cler of his rivals as rain hampered any attempt to compaer drivers and teams. This is the first time that the Ferrari has run on the same circuit as it's main rivals and Schumacher expressed his relief both at being competitive and having an extended run in the car.

Behind Schumacher came Mika Hakkinen, confirming his teams billing as front-runners, reigning champion Jaques Villeneuve, and the Benetton of Alex Wurz. Britain's David Coulthard was fifth.

Elsewhere, the top ten lacked many of the expected names, with Germany's Heinz-Harald-Frentzen (10th), Damon Hill (13th), Eddie Irivine (17th) and Giancarlo Fisichella (20th) all lower than expected. Hill, especially, had a torrid time, suffering two spins across the grass as he experimented with a hand-operated clutch.

Untimed Practice - Australian GP - Friday 6 March 1998

1Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrari-Ferrari1min 33 826 secs
2Mika HakkinenFinlandMcLaren-Mercedes1min 34 432 secs
3Jacques VilleneuveCanadaWilliams-Mecachrome1min 35 023 secs
4Alex WurzAustriaBenetton-Mecachrome1min 35 270 secs
5David CoulthardBritainMcLaren-Mercedes1min 35 409 secs
6Ralf SchumacherGermanyJordan-Mugen1min 35 708 secs
7Johnny HerbertBritainSauber-Petronas1min 35 876 secs
8Jean AlesiFranceSauber-Petronas1min 36 095 secs
9Jarno TrulliItalyProst-Peugeot1min 36 231 secs
10Heinz-Harald FrentzenGermanyWilliams-Mecachrome1min 36 791 secs
11Mika SaloFinlandArrows-Arrows1min 36 897 secs
12Reubens BarrichelloBrazilStewart-Ford1min 37 023 secs
13Damon HillBritainJordan-Mugen1min 37 102 secs
14Olivier PanisFranceProst-Peugeot1min 37 102 secs
15Ricardo RossetBrazilTyrrell Ford1min 37 144 secs
16Jan MagnussenDenmarkStewart-Ford1min 37 605 secs
17Eddie IrvineBritainFerrari-Ferrari1min 37 891 secs
18Pedro DinizBrazilArrows-Arrows1min 37 928 secs
19Tora TakagiJapanTyrrell-Ford1min 38 817 secs
20Giancarlo FisichellaItalyBenetton-Mecachrome1min 33 826 secs
21Shinji NakanoJapanMinardi-Ford1min 39 044 secs
22Esteban TueroArgentinaMinardi-Ford2min 16 609 secs


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