McLaren fastest in European GP final practice

McLaren fastest in European GP final practice

McLaren was on a mission on Saturday morning at the Nurburgring, with Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya first and second fastest at the end of the practice sessions. Raikkonen's best was 1:29.680, a tenth up on Montoya, and Renault's Fernando...

McLaren was on a mission on Saturday morning at the Nurburgring, with Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya first and second fastest at the end of the practice sessions. Raikkonen's best was 1:29.680, a tenth up on Montoya, and Renault's Fernando Alonso, who was fastest in the first session, was third.

Kimi Raikkonen.
Photo by xpb.cc.

It was a quiet start, with a few cars coming out for installation laps, but it was ten minutes before anyone set a time. Michael Schumacher was the first to put in a couple of flyers, the best being 1:32.886 for the Ferrari. After a further five minutes of Michael wafting about on his own, brother Ralf appeared, the Toyota over a second down.

Minardi's Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher were over five seconds astray for third and fourth, while Ralf closed the gap to Michael to four tenths. Friesacher improved to just over four seconds off the pace and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was next to join, in third, followed by teammate Tiago Monteiro who went one behind for fourth.

Raikkonen went to the top of the times on his first flyer, 1:32.388, the McLaren half a second up on Michael. Raikkonen stayed out and set fastest sectors across the board for a 1:31.915 and Montoya took second, seven tenths down. The Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella went third but was immediately demoted by teammate Alonso.

Raikkonen dropped his time again, 1:31.573, followed by Montoya and Fisichella improving in tandem, the McLaren staying ahead. Alonso then took over from Raikkonen with a 1:31.095, half a second up. The Spaniard stayed out and repeated Kimi's previous effort of fastest sectors all round to clock 1:30.615, widening the gap to nearly a second.

Takuma Sato put his BAR sixth and Red Bull's David Coulthard and Williams' Mark Webber joined in eighth and ninth. Monteiro bought out the yellow flags when he came to halt in the last sector. Webber improved ahead of Coulthard and Williams teammate Nick Heidfeld went better still for seventh.

Webber retaliated by moving up to sixth but Heidfeld immediately took the place off him. Ralf improved to seventh after being moved down the order and Heidfeld lowered his time but stayed sixth, only to be demoted by Webber. Jacques Villeneuve was the first Sauber out, 14th, and Jarno Trulli put his Toyota 10th.

The second Sauber of Felipe Massa slotted into 11th and everyone from Sato in ninth was over two seconds off the pace. Tonio Liuzzi's Red Bull joined in 15th and Jenson Button's BAR 9th, while Montoya improved his time to second behind Alonso, six tenths down. Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari was the last to make the time sheet and arrived in fifth.

Liuzzi climbed one to 14th and Karthikeyan put in a good effort to improve to 15th, although he immediately lost the spot to Coulthard. There were some minor changes at the end but there was not a great deal of activity in the session. The top three remained Alonso, Montoya and Raikkonen, separated by just under a second.

Liuzzi was first on track in the second session and did a couple of laps in the 1:34 bracket, then Raikkonen took over with a 1:31.606. Trulli slotted into second, just over a tenth down, followed by Ralf into third. Villeneuve took fifth and Raikkonen improved to 1:31.539, while Fisichella arrived in fourth.

He was demoted by Alonso taking the spot and Montoya took over from Raikkonen with a 1:31.287, two and a half tenths up. Fisichella and Alonso traded places a couple of times and Coulthard took seventh, while the Minardis joined the back of the action. Michael took eighth on his first effort and Sato appeared in ninth.

Heidfeld clocked third behind the two McLarens and Montoya improved his time to 1:31.116. Webber started with seventh and Monteiro split the two Minardis in 15th. Button and Webber traded seventh and the Minardis and Monteiro squabbled amongst themselves. Liuzzi improved to 14th after being shunted down the order and Trulli went up to third.

Massa joined in 13th and Barrichello started with a lowly 16th, then improved to seventh. Villeneuve took 14th, one ahead of teammate Massa, and Alonso was next on a hot lap to clock 1:29.987, over a second up on Montoya and the first into the 1:29 zone. Raikkonen went even faster to take over with a 1:29.798, the rivals really thrashing it out.

Sato and Button improved to third and fourth respectively and Montoya rejoined the scrap at the top, just nine thousandths up on Raikkonen for 1:29.789. Michael moved back up the order to sixth but was immediately replaced by Trulli doing likewise. Trulli then went up again, to fourth, and Liuzzi made an effort for eighth.

Fisichella took over the fourth slot and there were some minor improvements further down the field but the action tailed off in the last five minutes. Raikkonen put in a last gasp flyer to return to the top, 1:29.680, Massa improved to 14th and Heidfeld to sixth and that was the end of the session.

McLaren was absolutely flying this morning and both Raikkonen and Montoya are in with a good chance for pole in this afternoon's qualifying. However, Renault is not far behind, although BAR, Toyota and Williams were a little off the pace of the front runners. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Montoya, Alonso, Fisichella, Trulli, Heidfeld, Sato, R. Schumacher.

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