Schumacher ahead in Malaysian GP final practice

Schumacher ahead in Malaysian GP final practice

Michael Schumacher took control of the Saturday practices for the Malaysian Grand Prix but faced some stiff competition from Williams. Schumacher's best of 1:33.526 in the second session was just under four thousandths of a second ahead of Juan ...

Michael Schumacher took control of the Saturday practices for the Malaysian Grand Prix but faced some stiff competition from Williams. Schumacher's best of 1:33.526 in the second session was just under four thousandths of a second ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, with teammate Ralf Schumacher in third fastest.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Bridgestone Corporation.

The conditions for the first session were slightly cooler than yesterday, track temperature around 42 degrees. Renault's Jarno Trulli set the early pace, 1:34.714, followed by Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner, some six seconds down. Fernando Alonso slotted into second on his first flyer, six tenths behind, with the Jordan of Giorgio Pantano nearly five seconds adrift in third.

Ralf was next to the top, 1:34.239 for the Williams, with teammate Montoya in pursuit, three tenths down. BAR's Takuma Sato, Toyota's Cristiano da Matta and Sauber's Felipe Massa also made some early running, along with the Jordans and Minardis. Massa's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella took fifth and the second Toyota of Olivier Panis eighth.

Christian Klien was the first Jaguar on track, ninth, and Rubens Barrichello tested the waters for Ferrari to take second fastest on his initial flyer. Da Matta, who spun off in yesterday's second practice, was the first to come to grief today, doing the same thing in the middle sector of the lap. Michael took the best time when he ventured out, 1:33.391 for the Ferrari, eight tenths up on Ralf.

Alonso improved to second, marginally closer to Michael's time than Ralf, and David Coulthard was the first McLaren out, fifth. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Jaguar's Mark Webber were the last of the drivers to take to the track in the first session. Webber made eighth on his first effort but Raikkonen, who was fastest yesterday, only did four laps and set no competitive time.

Da Matta was first out in the second session to make up for lost time, and the track temperature edged close to 50 degrees. 1:35.441 was his first effort, with Fisichella in second and Panis third. Trulli was quick to reclaim the top spot, 1:34.041, while Klien, Jenson Button and Coulthard were in the top six early on. Ralf moved into second and Michael went one better to oust Trulli by one thousandth of a second.

Alonso took fifth on his first attempt and Raikkonen finally made the time sheet, posting third on his initial flyer, half a second off the Ferrari at the top. Barrichello slotted into fourth, a further 0.5 behind the Finn, but was immediately demoted by Panis, who improved after slipping down the order. Massa put in a very good lap to take fifth and Alonso moved to third, a tenth and a half off Trulli and Michael.

Ralf evicted big brother from the top with a 1:33.973, six hundredths quicker -- only two tenths separated the top four at that point. Webber took fifth and the McLarens followed on in six and seventh, Barrichello lurking at the edge of the top ten. Further down the field, the BARs were idling while the Jordans squabbled with the Minardis at the back.

Montoya was the last man to set a time and made it count with a 1:33.563, four tenths ahead of teammate Ralf to take the top slot. Raikkonen improved to fifth and Button made a big jump from 16th to take the place from him. Michael returned to the top, clocking 1:33.526, just four thousandths ahead of Montoya. Barrichello managed fifth in the final minutes but there was no change at the top.

A much closer fought day than Friday, with the Michelin runners outnumbering Bridgestone by eight to two in the top ten. Massa was the next best Bridgestone shod car after the Ferraris, 12th. Renault and McLaren were fairly evenly matched and Button showed more of the pace that BAR had in Melbourne. If the temperature doesn't drop, qualifying is surely going to be a battle. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, R. Schumacher, Trulli, Barrichello, Button, Raikkonen, Coulthard.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan