As expected, the McLaren-Mercedes duo of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard
topped the timesheets after Saturday's qualifying session for the Brazilian
Grand Prix. Their advantage over the rest of the field was smaller than in
Australia, however, giving some comfort to their pursuers.


Hakkinen eventually emerged fastest of all, recording a handful of laps
quicker than his Scottish team-mate, but both McLarens were made to fight
for the front row after having their sophisticated braking system outlawed.


Alex Wurz, driving the Benetton-Playlife, was the first to displace
Coulthard from first place, putting in a time six tenths quicker than he
had managed previously. The Austrian's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella
featured in the top five until the dying moments of the session, until a
spin across the grass halted his progress.


This allowed Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Williams-Mecachrome) to take third spot
on the grid just four tenths behind the McLarens. The German driver
survived a late attempt by compatriot Michael Schumacher to displace him,
the former champion coming up a tenth short.


Schumacher's Ferrari team-mate Eddie Irvine was the next best British
driver in sixth spot. A mere two tenths were all that separated Irvine from
his illustrious team-mate, and the Irishman was pleased with the
performance.


Reigning champion Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Mecachrome) could only
manage a disappointing tenth spot after a quick spin. The dusty track
conditions caught many drivers out, with several enduring trips across the
grass.


Behind Villeneuve, Damon Hill (Jordan-Mugen) was once again out-qualified
by his less experienced team-mate Ralf Schumacher, who lined up eighth to
the Englishman's 11th. Johnny Herbert put in a stunning lap to put his evil
handling Sauber-Petronas into 14th, one place ahead of team-mate Jean
Alesi, while the Stewart-Ford team avoided the major engine problems which
plagued them in Melbourne to sandwich the Swiss cars.

 

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