F1

Massa tops the times in Italian GP last practice

Massa tops the times in Italian GP last practice

Ferrari's Felipe Massa set the benchmark time in Saturday morning's last practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, his best of 1:21.665 a second up on Friday's top time. Second quickest in the last practice was the BMW Sauber of Nick...

Ferrari's Felipe Massa set the benchmark time in Saturday morning's last practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, his best of 1:21.665 a second up on Friday's top time. Second quickest in the last practice was the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, just under four tenths off the BMW, and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was third.

Felipe Massa.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The track temperature was around 30 degrees at the start of the session as the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Sakon Yamamoto led out. Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso and the MF1s of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers followed on and Sato posted the first time, 1:27.536. The others just did installation laps then headed back to the pits.

Over his following laps Sato lowered his time to 1:26.209 and after a further five minutes Yamamoto returned to the track and posted second. Michael's Ferrari and brother Ralf's Toyota appeared and Liuzzi and the MF1s also went back out. Michael clocked 1:25.007 for the top and Liuzzi took third.

The Toro Rosso was demoted by Ralf and Yamamoto in quick succession and Michael lowered his time to 1:24.105. Jarno Trulli's Toyota and Rubens Barrichello's Honda were next on track, then the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed, while Liuzzi improved ahead of Ralf for third. Michael was still hurtling around, his next a 1:23.894.

Barrichello clocked fourth on his first flyer and Trulli went one better for third, then Sato demoted the pair of them. Speed started with eighth and Barrichello moved up to second, seven tenths off Michael. Meanwhile, the McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa, the Honda of Jenson Button and the BMW of Heidfeld ventured out.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault on track, along with Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren, while Speed improved to sixth. De la Rosa posted third on his first effort but was quickly demoted by Button, and Albers first timed lap put him 12th. Heidfeld started with fifth and Raikkonen with third, then de la Rosa took second.

He was immediately dropped by Button taking the spot, two and a half tenths off Michael. Heidfeld went up to third and Fisichella clocked 14th on his first timed run, while Raikkonen ousted Michael from the top spot with a 1:23.539. It was short lived as Button's 1:23.295 was just over two tenths quicker.

Massa's Ferrari arrived in second, a tenth and a half off the Honda, and Fisichella improved to ninth. Fernando Alonso put his Renault seventh on his first flyer and Massa took over at the top, 1:22.878 for four tenths up on Button. David Coulthard's Red Bull posted 10th and Alonso improved to fifth, the last to be within a second of Massa at the time.

At the other end of the time sheet Sato improved to 14th, followed by Albers, Liuzzi, Monteiro and Yamamoto. Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber and Christian Klien's Red Bull were late to get going, which just left the Williams' of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg to run. Rosberg appeared shortly afterwards.

Kubica started with a lowly 17th and Klien an ever lazier 20th, while Rosberg could hardly be bothered in 21st. They soon woke up a bit, Kubica up to 12th and then Klien took the position, while Rosberg shot up to sixth. Kubica gained a couple more places to 11th and Klien followed Rosberg up the list to seventh.

Webber finally appeared with 20 minutes to go and crawled into 22nd. Meanwhile, Raikkonen, Michael and de la Rosa were lapping in formation, Raikkonen up to second, Michael to third and de la Rosa then took the second spot, just four hundredths off Massa. Raikkonen retaliated with a 1:22.851 to shift the Ferrari off the top by an even narrower margin.

Webber improved to 11th and Sato to 15th, while Massa was on a scorching lap and posted 1:21.891, nearly a second up on Raikkonen. Speed improved to 12th and Klien to fifth, followed by teammate Coulthard to eighth. In the last five minutes Rosberg went up to seventh and Heidfeld to second, two tenths off Massa.

Michael and Alonso followed into third and fourth then Kubica took the fourth spot. Fisichella went up to sixth and Barrichello to ninth, all of them having previously been shuffled down the times. At the end Massa lowered his top time to 1:21.665 and it was Ferrari, BMW and Renault making up the top six positions, Fisichella in sixth the last within a second of Massa.

McLaren and Honda were not far behind, with Williams, Red Bull and Toyota on a similar pace. Ferrari's speed probably makes Michael and Massa the favourites for pole in qualifying but there's room for arguments. Final top eight classification: Massa, Heidfeld, M. Schumacher, Kubica, Alonso, Fisichella, Raikkonen, Barrichello.

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