Schumacher on top in European GP last practice

Schumacher on top in European GP last practice

Michael Schumacher gave his home fans something to cheer about when he was the fastest man in the last practice session for the European Grand Prix. The Ferrari clocked a best of 1:30.788 at the Nürburgring on Saturday morning. Teammate Felipe ...

Michael Schumacher gave his home fans something to cheer about when he was the fastest man in the last practice session for the European Grand Prix. The Ferrari clocked a best of 1:30.788 at the N?rburgring on Saturday morning. Teammate Felipe Massa was second quickest, three tenths off, and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota was third.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The track temperature was around 27 degrees at the start of the session with the air some 10 degrees lower. The Super Aguris of Franck Montagny and Takuma Sato led out, followed by MF1's Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers, and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who was sidelined for much of Friday with car problems.

Ralf's Toyota also appeared and Montagny was first to set a time, 1:39.382. He was quickly eclipsed by Trulli's 1:36.783 and Montagny improved to just over a second off. Trulli was still out on track and widened the gap to two seconds again with a 1:35.887, but was immediately demoted by Ralf being one thousandth quicker.

Trulli responded with a 1:35.083 to make the gap eight tenths. David Coulthard's Red Bull was next to join the track and split the two Toyota's with second, three tenths off Trulli. Ralf retaliated to take the position back, just under two tenths down on his teammate. Montagny was still two seconds off the pace in fourth.

While the three at the top were squabbling several other drivers had been out for installation laps. The BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve, the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren, the Red Bull of Christian Klien and the Williams of Nico Rosberg.

Heidfeld slotted into fourth on his first flyer, with Speed, Montoya, Villeneuve and Monteiro lining up behind. Klien jumped into fourth and Heidfeld improved to second, seven hundredths off Trulli. Liuzzi took seventh and Rosberg 11th then Villeneuve posted second, one hundredth down on the lead Toyota.

Ralf moved into fourth and Klien was next to the top, 1:34.722 for a tenth and a half up on Trulli. Rosberg climbed to eighth and teammate Mark Webber arrived in 10th. Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren clocked second, less than two hundredths off Klien and Michael went to the top on his first flyer, 1:33.605, over a second up.

Fernando Alonso put his Renault second on his first effort, six tenths off Michael, but the German lowered his time to 1:33.217 and the gap was then nearly a second. Michael was removed from the top by Massa, 1:32.823 for the Brazilian and nearly four tenths up. He then dropped it to 1:32.744.

Coulthard joined the little party at the top with second, two and a half tenths down. Behind Alonso in fourth came Trulli, Ralf and Klien, then Raikkonen, Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella and Villeneuve made up the top 10. Just outside were Heidfeld and the Honda of Rubens Barrichello, then Liuzzi, Montagny and the second Honda of Jenson Button.

Speed was 16th, followed by Rosberg and Webber, then Monteiro, Montoya, Albers and Sato at the half way point. Most drivers had only done a handful of laps. Liuzzi went up to 11th and Klien had a very quick first sector followed by two decent ones to return to the top, 1:32.491 and two and a half tenths up on Massa.

Button moved up to 12th and Montoya woke up and shifted the McLaren up to fifth. Webber did likewise and put the Williams second, two tenths down on Klien. Villeneuve improved to ninth and Heidfeld to fifth then Rosberg, who'd been idling near the back, shot up to the top, 1:32.459, followed by Raikkonen into second, two hundredths down.

Michael improved to fourth after being moved down the order and Alonso was next to the top, two hundredths up on Rosberg with a 1:32.438. At that point the top 10 were separated by only half a second. Liuzzi bounced up to the top with a 1:32.290 -- this really was a strange session for not knowing who was doing what.

Barrichello improved to sixth and Button leapt up from near the back to head the times, 1:32.104 and nearly two tenths up on Liuzzi. Michael was next on a charge and set fastest sectors all the way to post 1:30.788, easily over a second faster than Button. Klien went up to third and Massa slotted into second, three tenths off Michael.

In the final minutes Button regained the third slot but was demoted by Alonso, while Speed climbed to ninth. Villeneuve appropriated third, followed by Fisichella into fourth, then Ralf took the popular third spot. Time ran out and the Ferraris remained at the top and a second separated the top six.

An interesting session, with some unexpected teams showing quite impressive pace, but is it real or is it flattering to deceive? Qualifying looks set to be quite a battle for the front row. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Massa, R. Schumacher, Villeneuve, Fisichella, Alonso, Button, Klien.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Franck Montagny , Fernando Alonso , Christijan Albers , Felipe Massa , Tiago Monteiro , Scott Speed , Christian Klien
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams