Hakkinen fastest, Schumacher absent

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

The McLaren-Mercedes of Mika Hakkinen was fastest around the Estoril track in Portugal yesterday. Making no impression, however, was the Ferrari of the world champion Michael Schumacher, whose absence from the morning session went unexplained.

Hakkinen lapped the 4.36-kilometre track in 1min 20.87sec, eight-tenths of a second faster than Damon Hill in a Williams-Renault and the Jordan- Peugeot of Rubens Barrichello.

There was no sign of Schumacher. The German, in his first season for Ferrari, arrived on Tuesday to test the new F310 car. But he ran last year's car fitted with the new Ferrari V-10 engine for only seven laps before retiring with a mechanical failure. Ferrari officials said the new car might arrive in Estoril today.

Hill's team-mate, Jacques Villeneuve, was fourth quickest in 1:21.11, ahead of Gerhard Berger's Benetton-Renault that recorded 1:21.38.

The second Jordan-Peugeot of Martin Brundle was sixth in 1:21.64, ahead of Mika Salo, who, in 50 laps, clocked a fastest 1:21.91 in his Tyrrell- Yamaha. He was finally towed in after suffering a problem with oil pressure.

The second Benetton-Renault, driven by Jean Alesi, was eighth fastest in 1:22.58, nearly half a second faster than Ukyo Katayama in the second Tyrrell-Yamaha.

Blundell's challenge, page 26