Michael Schumacher was on top at the end of the final practice for the San Marino Grand Prix but Jenson Button's BAR was right on the pace of the Ferrari. Schumacher's best of 1:20.125 was only two hundredths ahead of Button, which hopefully bodes...
Michael Schumacher was on top at the end of the final practice for the San Marino Grand Prix but Jenson Button's BAR was right on the pace of the Ferrari. Schumacher's best of 1:20.125 was only two hundredths ahead of Button, which hopefully bodes well for qualifying. Renault's Fernando Alonso led the rest of the field, third quickest and seven tenths down.
It was a cool start to the morning with the air and track temperature around 20 degrees. Schumacher was first to set a time, 1:22.317, the only one on the time sheet in the first ten minutes. There were cars out on track but most seemed happy to take their time, strolling around doing installation laps. Schumacher improved to a 1:21.589 and brother Ralf was next to make an appearance, over a second down in the Williams.
Alonso made it three on the time sheet, followed by teammate Jarno Trulli and Toyota's Cristiano da Matta. Christian Klien hardly even got going, the Jaguar crashing into the barriers on only his second lap out. Zsolt Baumgartner joined those setting lap times, the Minardi some six seconds off the pace. Michael remained at the top but the Renaults moved into second and third quickest, Alonso and Trulli respectively.
The Jordans were next to show, then Rubens Barrichello took second, just a tenth behind teammate Michael. Juan Pablo Montoya moved his Williams into third fastest and the Toyotas and Saubers made up the rest of the top ten. Takuma Sato was the first BAR in the picture, fifth, and Mark Webber put his Jaguar into sixth. The Williams moved into third and fourth, Montoya and Ralf respectively, around a second down on Michael's best.
Jenson Button displaced everyone bar the lead Ferrari when he woke up, three tenths off Michael, and David Coulthard put a McLaren on the time sheet, eighth, with 15 minutes to go. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen wandered out in the last five minutes to edge into the top ten. A rather idle first session, Michael staying put at the top without any real challenge.
Giancarlo Fisichella was first out in the second session, pottering about on his own for a while and setting a 1:23.280 in the Sauber. A few others wandered out on track, Ralf taking over with a 1:22.159 and Alonso slotting in behind. Trulli took fourth and Giorgio Pantano put his Jordan fifth but it was a while before anyone made a really determined effort.
Sato moved into the top three when he set a time and Barrichello took over at the top, 1:20.966, a much better time, on a par with Button's best of yesterday. Raikkonen went up to second fastest, six tenths down on the Ferrari, and both Toyotas were in the top ten. Alonso displaced Barrichello with a 1:20.844 and Coulthard slotted in behind Raikkonen, the McLaren's looking a bit more lively this weekend.
Pantano came to a halt in the middle sector and Klien never made it out until the last five minutes, the Jaguar obviously needing repair work after his earlier incident. Teammate Webber put in an effort though, fourth fastest in the closing stages, although he got shuffled down the order. Michael returned to the top with a 1:20.125, the same area his best in Friday's first practice, and seven tenths up on Alonso. Montoya took third and Olivier Panis improved to eighth.
Button was on Michael's pace, taking second with just a two hundredth deficit, the closest anyone got to the Ferrari's best time of the weekend. It had looked as if Michael was a sure thing for pole in qualifying but it's not so certain with Button matching the Ferrari. However, Michael is still the favourite but can BAR spring a surprise? Renault, Williams and McLaren all looked competitive but not up to Button and Michael's pace. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Button, Alonso, Coulthard, Montoya, Barrichello, Sato, Trulli.