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Schumacher leads in British GP last practice

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Schumacher leads in British GP last practice

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was the pace setter in the last practice session for the British Grand Prix, the German clocking a best time of 1:20.919. BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld put in a good effort to take second, four and a half tenths off,...

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was the pace setter in the last practice session for the British Grand Prix, the German clocking a best time of 1:20.919. BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld put in a good effort to take second, four and a half tenths off, and Schumacher's teammate Felipe Massa was third quickest.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The weather continued to be dry at Silverstone, with a track temperature of around thirty degrees at the start of the session. MF1's Tiago Monteiro was the first man out on the circuit, followed by teammate Christijan Albers and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Franck Montagny. Sato's 1:29.483 was first on the time sheet and Montagny was six tenths off.

They were the only two on track early on, as the MF1s only did an installation lap at first and nobody else was inclined to get going. Sato lowered his time to 1:28.483 and Montagny closed the gap to two tenths. Red Bull's David Coulthard was next to put in an appearance and Montagny took over from Sato with a 1:27.809.

Coulthard went to the top on his first flyer, 1:26.628 then improved to 1:25.598, while Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi posted second. Monteiro clocked fifth but Albers stopped in the first sector before setting a time. Monteiro moved up to second but was immediately demoted by Liuzzi again, six tenths off Coulthard.

Monteiro came back to retake the position, the gap to the lead Red Bull less than a tenth. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and Toyota's Jarno Trulli went out for installation laps and Monteiro was still improving, his next effort of 1:25.100 half a second up on Coulthard. Raikkonen, who only did a handful of laps on Friday, went fastest on his first flyer, 1:24.513.

The Finn improved over his next couple of laps to 1:23.742 which left Monteiro over a second adrift. A few other drivers took to the track after about 20 minutes, the BMW Saubers of Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve, the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso's Renault and Christian Klien's Red Bull.

Trulli clocked fifth on his first timed lap and Toyota teammate Ralf Schumacher also joined the track. Heidfeld took third and Alonso went straight to the top, 1:23.739 for just three thousandths up on Raikkonen. Ralf slotted into sixth and Sato was the second casualty, his Super Aguri going off track in the first sector and hitting the barrier.

The Ferraris of Michael and Massa were next to appear and started with 15th and 12th respectively due to the yellow flags from Sato's incident. Montagny then compounded the problem when he went off in the last sector -- not a good morning for Super Aguri. Massa then improved to third and Heidfeld to fifth.

Klien moved up to fourth and Massa's next lap took him to the top with a 1:23.401. He was immediately demoted by Michael's 1:23.217 while Scott Speed's Toro Rosso joined in eighth. Michael lowered his top time to 1:22.435, leaving Massa just about a second behind. Button improved to sixth and Speed to seventh, then Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren arrived in third.

Liuzzi took the seventh spot and Nico Rosberg was the first Williams on the time sheet in 13th. He then moved up to sixth and teammate Mark Webber joined him on the time sheet a few minutes later in 15th. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was the last man to take to the track and posted sixth.

With 20 minutes to go Michael was still at the top with only Massa and Montoya within a second of his time. Fisichella quickly changed that when he clocked 1:21.859, five and a half tenths up on the lead Ferrari. Raikkonen improved to third after being shuffled down the order and Alonso did likewise to take second, a hundredth off Fisichella.

At that time it was the two Renaults, followed by the two Ferraris and the two McLarens. The BMWs of Villeneuve and Heidfeld were next in seventh and eighth respectively but were then split by Trulli. Button moved up to fourth from outside the top ten and Klien improved to ninth after being moved down the times.

Monteiro made a startling jump from the midfield up to sixth, ahead of both McLarens, which apparently gave everyone something to think about as the track went quiet for a while. Further down the field Ralf was squabbling with the Toro Rossos with Webber, Coulthard and Barrichello loitering at the back.

In the last five minutes Coulthard woke up and posted fifth and Michael took over at the top with a 1:20.919, over nine tenths up on Fisichella. Barrichello belted up to fourth, followed by Villeneuve into fifth, and Heidfeld went even better for second, the gap to Michael four and a half tenths. Liuzzi also climbed, from the midfield to seventh.

Teammate Speed took eighth and Coulthard was already back down to 10th. Massa, who had been moved outside the top ten, jumped up to third right at the end, followed likewise by Raikkonen into fourth. It was a fairly active session and the usual suspects of Renault, Ferrari and McLaren looked to be competitive. Montoya was down in 15th but only did seven laps.

BMW put in a good showing and Honda wasn't far off but Toyota and Williams ended up at the bottom of the times -- although that doesn't necessarily mean a great deal. Monteiro ended a reasonable 13th, in between the Red Bulls, while the Toro Rossos were notably both in the top ten.

Qualifying should be interesting, as pole could go to any of at least four drivers and possibly six or seven. Maybe more, who knows? Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Heidfeld, Massa, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Alonso, Barrichello, Villeneuve.

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