Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Schumacher impresses on F1 return
Michael Schumacher: Back in action on the first day of the Malaysian meeting
Michael Schumacher made an encouraging return to Formula One in a wet first practice session in Kuala Lumpur.
But there was disappointment for the race organisers as the opening day of the first ever Malaysian Grand Prix drew paltry crowds.
Schumacher clocked the fastest time of the morning session on his comeback after a seven race lay-off with the broken leg he suffered in the British Grand Prix.
Germany's two-time former world champion led in his Ferrari with 1:44.824 - but ended the day fifth overall with 1:42.875 as Canada's Jacques Villeneuve (1:42.407) went quickest in a drier afternoon session.
World title favourite Mika Hakkinen, who has a two-point lead over Irvine at the top of the table, was eighth after encountering traffic.
Schumacher said afterwards that he had come through his first track outing since mid-July with no problems.
"I am glad to say I felt absolutely no pain and so I was able to concentrate fully on the driving," he said.
"We are not far off the pace and I have enough time to improve so I am confident for qualifying."
The world's top drivers were testing themselves for the first time on the brand-new $75m, 2.09 mile circuit.
"The track seemed quite interesting with a good set of fast and slow corners," said Coulthard.
Of more concern for the drivers, though, is the weather.
Fears that Sunday's race could be turned into a lottery with Malaysia in the midst of a monsoon season increased as rain hit the track for the 37th day in succession.
At one point during the practice session, spectators were treated to the sight of a leopard running alongside the track - a rare occurence in a sport more accustomed to Jaguars.
Friday's practice times for Malaysian Grand Prix:
1 J Villeneuve (Can) BAR 1:42.407
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