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McLaren dominates practice

McLaren teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard dominated Friday's free practice for the San Marino Grand Prix as the British team appeared set to restore its supremacy in the World F1 Championship.

Hakkinen and Coulthard, who faltered in the last race in Argentina after finishing 1-2 in Australia and Brazil, clocked the fastest laps at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit of Imola, with the Finn edging the Scotsman by 0.323 seconds.

Hakkinen turned his fastest lap over the 3.063-mile track in 1 minute, 27.617 seconds. Coulthard was timed in 1:27.94.

Michael Schumacher, who upset Hakkinen in Argentina two weeks ago, came in third in his Ferrari _ the only driver in a field of 22 to get close to McLaren's times.

Schumacher, a two-time world champion, was only 0.471 seconds off the free practice leader. He experienced brake problems, however.

"My car was not set up properly and it was unpredictable to drive," said Schumacher, a two-time world champion. "We are not too far from McLaren, but we don't know if they used new tires, while we did."

Hakkinen said he could have been faster without a slight imbalance problem that hampered his practice. "I also had some troubles with traffic. We did some good work to improve the chassis," Hakkinen said.

Coulthard said tires and balance were major issues for all teams.

Defending world champion Jacques Villeneuve of Canada had his best free practice of the season in his Winfield Williams but still trailed Hakkinen by 1.02.

Villeneuve said his Williams made some progress with different suspensions and seemed more competitive than in the previous races.

"However qualifying is going to be pretty tough," he said.

Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother, drove his Jordan-Mugen Honda to fifth, ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton.

Ralf Schumacher spun off the track shortly after turning his fastest lap and took the blame for the incident.

"It was my fault. I'm otherwise very happy with my performance today and optimistic about qualifying," he said.