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Heidfeld leads in Australian GP last practice

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Heidfeld leads in Australian GP last practice

BMW Sauber led the times in the last practice session for the Australian Grand Prix with Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve at the top of the list. On a slippery track Heidfeld's best time was 1:35.335 and teammate Villeneuve was just under a ...

BMW Sauber led the times in the last practice session for the Australian Grand Prix with Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve at the top of the list. On a slippery track Heidfeld's best time was 1:35.335 and teammate Villeneuve was just under a second behind. Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi was notable in third fastest.

Nick Heidfeld.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Saturday morning conditions were poor; early rain meant the session was declared wet and both the track and air temperatures were under 20 degrees. Super Aguri's Yuji Ide was the first to venture out, followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Liuzzi and MF1's Tiago Monteiro for installation laps.

Monteiro's teammate Christijan Albers was next, then the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher and the Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher joined, followed by the Renault pair of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, Villeneuve and the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed.

Ide was the first put a time up, a lap over two minutes. Trulli dropped it down to 1:50.442, while the Red Bull of David Coulthard and the McLarens of Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen spooled out onto the circuit. Villeneuve posted 1:45.619 but was overtaken by Fisichella's 1:43.382, the times very cautious in the tricky conditions.

Ralf's Toyota slotted into third and was promptly demoted by Coulthard, then Montoya took second. Villeneuve went back to the top, 1:41.860, and Raikkonen arrived in fifth. Fisichella removed Villeneuve with a 1:39.879, seven tenths up, and it was evidently quite dodgy out on track, with several cars running wide.

The William of Nico Rosberg and Christian Klien's Red Bull clocked ninth and 10th respectively then Alonso took the ninth position. Rosberg climbed to fourth and Alonso to third and after 20 minutes there was a quiet spell. 11 drivers had posted a time, Fisichella fastest followed by Villeneuve and Alonso.

Alonso then went to the top, 1:39.654 for just over two tenths up on his teammate but the times were still over 10 seconds off Friday's practices. Button edged onto the bottom of the list in 12th and Heidfeld was one of the last to go out for an installation lap. The German clocked fifth on his first timed effort.

Liuzzi posted fourth and the Williams of Mark Webber ninth, then Trulli, who had been moved down the order, improved to sixth. Heidfeld went up to third but lost the place to Liuzzi and Button took over at the top with a 1:39.007. It was short-lived as Villeneuve demoted him by just seven hundredths, 1:38.935. The Canadian's spell at the top was equally brief as Fisichella returned with a 1:36.419.

Heidfeld moved into second, over a second off the Renault, but Villenuve came back to take the slot, a couple of tenths quicker. Button was down to fourth, Barrichello up to fifth and Klien to sixth, with Alonso, Coulthard, Liuzzi and Trulli making up the top 10. A dry line was starting to appear but the track was a long way from reasonable.

Klien improved to fourth but Button retook it and Coulthard moved ahead of Alonso for seventh. Albers came off track in the middle sector and got stuck in the gravel, while Michael moved up the list to third. Speed and Rosberg improved in formation to ninth and 10th respectively but the activity was rather sporadic.

Monteiro finally got onto the time sheet in 16th and Massa, who had been pottering about outside the top 10, shot up to second, a tenth off Fisichella. At that point everybody else was a second and more off the pace. Webber went up to fifth and Barrichello to third but the Honda was still over a second off Fisichella and Massa.

Villeneuve managed to outdo the top two and posted 1:36.281, just over a tenth up on Fisichella. Villeneuve didn't have to spare his engine this morning as BMW confirmed on Friday that he will have a change before qualifying. Heidfeld also had a new engine yesterday but was due one anyway so does not incur a penalty, whereas Villeneuve will.

Ralf, who had been languishing near the back, woke up in the last five minutes and climbed to third, just marginally behind Fisichella. Liuzzi did even better to take second, a tenth down on Villeneuve and the top five, Massa being fifth, were just over two tenths apart. But Heidfeld was next to take the top spot and was nearly a second up with 1:35.335.

That was the last improvement as the session came to an end. An interesting result for BMW with Heidfeld and Villeneuve at the top but there's not much conclusion to be drawn from it. The poor conditions made it difficult to judge competitiveness; for instance, the McLarens only did three laps apiece and were at the bottom of the times.

Fisichella remained near the top but Alonso was down in 17th, although both Ferraris were in the top seven. If the wet weather continues in qualifying it's anybody's guess who might end up on pole. Final top eight classification: Heidfeld, Villeneuve, Liuzzi, Fisichella, R. Schumacher, Massa, M. Schumacher, Barrichello.

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