Friday August 31st, 2001
McLaren's David Coulthard climbed unhurt from his car after a heavy crash in opening free practice for the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix as Michael Schumacher topped the timesheets.
The Scot hit the metal barriers almost head-on after running over a kerb into gravel and then slewing across the track.
The incident, at the right-left Les Fagnes bend where cars approach a maximum 160 km/h, sent the crippled McLaren skidding backwards along the barriers before coming to a halt on a damp and misty morning. The car was heavily damaged, with the right front wheel dangling from its tethers.
Coulthard clambered out unhurt but stayed with the wrecked car for the rest of the session, having managed just three laps without setting a competitive time. A team spokeswoman hoped the driver would be able to start the second 45-minute practice as scheduled.
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve also sat out most of the session, completing just four laps before his BAR skidded into the gravel. Coulthard is fighting to stay second overall in a Championship already won by Ferrari's Schumacher.
The German, seeking a record 52nd win in Sunday's race after securing his fourth world title in Hungary this month, again topped the early timesheets ahead of Italian Jarno Trulli in a Jordan. Trulli, whose team scored their first win here in 1998, clocked 1:49.404 ahead of Schumacher's Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello in 1:49.456.
Schumacher, who made his Grand Prix debut at Spa in 1991 and rates the fast track winding round the wooded Ardennes hillsides as his favourite, recorded a best time of 1:48.655. That time compared to Mika Hakkinen's 2000 pole position time of 1:50.646 and the official race lap record set by Frenchman Alain Prost in 1993 of 1:51.095.
Several cars, including both of the Jordans and Mika Hakkinen's McLaren, seemed to have difficulty coping with the bus stop chicane as they missed the apex in difficult conditions, and Tarso Marques had a late spin in his Minardi at the La Source hairpin.
Hakkinen claimed fourth for McLaren, with Ralf Schumacher fifth for Williams, despite expectations that a cold track would make things difficult for them. And Jean Alesi strengthened thoughts that the Jordan may be suited to this track, on which the team claimed a memorable one-two finish in 1998, as he claimed the final top six place.
The Sauber pair followed with Kimi Raikkonen heading Nick Heidfeld for seventh, and Juan Pablo Montoya put his Williams up to ninth.
Pos Driver Team Times
1. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:48.655 230.867 km/h
2. Trulli Jordan Honda (B) 1:49.404 + 0.749
3. Barrichello Ferrari (B) 1:49.456 + 0.801
4. Hakkinen Mclaren Mercedes (B) 1:50.239 + 1.584
5. R.Schumacher Williams BMW (M) 1:50.801 + 2.146
6. Alesi Jordan Honda (B) 1:51.631 + 2.976
7. Raikkonen Sauber Petronas (B) 1:51.645 + 2.990
8. Heidfeld Sauber Petronas (B) 1:52.436 + 3.781
9. Montoya Williams BMW (M) 1:52.829 + 4.174
10. Fisichella Benetton Renault (M) 1:52.943 + 4.288
11. Verstappen Arrows Asiatech (B) 1:52.955 + 4.300
12. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:53.087 + 4.432
13. Frentzen Prost Acer (M) 1:53.320 + 4.665
14. Panis BAR Honda (B) 1:53.807 + 5.152
15. de la Rosa Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:54.352 + 5.697
16. Button Benetton Renault (M) 1:54.711 + 6.056
17. Alonso Minardi European (M) 1:55.329 + 6.674
18. Bernoldi Arrows Asiatech (B) 1:55.491 + 6.836
19. Marques Minardi European (M) 1:56.194 + 7.539
20. Villeneuve BAR Honda (B) 1:57.639 + 8.984
21. Burti Prost Acer (M) 10:43.872 + 8:55.217
22. Coulthard Mclaren Mercedes (B) 12:37.913 +10:49.258
All Timing Unofficial
Published at 10:04:09 GMT