Michael Schumacher continued to stay at the top of the time sheet at the end of the Saturday practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix, but only by a very narrow margin. The Ferrari man's best of 1:14.014 was just two thousandths of a second...
Michael Schumacher continued to stay at the top of the time sheet at the end of the Saturday practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix, but only by a very narrow margin. The Ferrari man's best of 1:14.014 was just two thousandths of a second ahead of Renault's Jarno Trulli and six thousandths from the BAR of Takuma Sato.
The early session started with track and air temperature in the low twenties as drivers went out for installation laps. After Jaguar's turbulent Thursday practices, Christian Klien was first to put a time up, 1:24.864, and teammate Mark Webber bettered him with a 1:20.725. Minardi's Zolt Baumgartner slotted in behind the Jaguars but then went off track in the final sector after a few laps.
The two Jordans joined the time sheet, Giorgio Pantano ahead of Nick Heidfeld, and Webber improved to 1:18.355. Klien also improved but was over a second off the Australian. The second Minardi of Gianmaria Bruni fared no better than Baumgartner, going off track in the middle sector. Sato demoted Webber from the top with a 1:18.128.
After a quiet first half hour, the two Williams drivers appeared, Ralf Schumacher clocking 1:17.355, with Juan Pablo Montoya taking second fastest. They were quickly demoted by the Renault of Fernando Alonso, 1:16.665 on his first flyer, and in turn the Spaniard was ousted by Michael Schumacher's 1:16.131. The German's Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello slotted into second, a tenth down.
David Coulthard put his McLaren seventh, teammate Kimi Raikkonen eighth, the second Renault of Trulli clocked sixth on the time sheet. Raikkonen improved ahead of Coulthard and the pair of Toyotas were at the edge of the top ten. Jenson Button made fifth when his BAR appeared on the time sheet and Trulli bettered teammate Alonso to take third fastest. Button removed the Italian and the top five were within three tenths.
Coulthard went up to sixth and there were some improvements down the order, but Michael and Barrichello stayed at the top, leading from Webber, who took third in the final minutes. Sauber's Felipe Massa only managed two laps before spinning but teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was just outside the top ten.
Massa was out first in the second session, 1:16.848 on his initial effort, with Klien and Raikkonen following behind. Raikkonen then took the top, 1:16.774, and Button moved into third. Sato ousted the McLaren with a 1:16.690 but immediately fell to Michael's 1:16.322. Trulli took over but was demoted just as quickly by Alonso, 1:16.185, the times changing rapidly. Ralf was next up, 1:16.115, the improvements very marginal -- at that point the top three were within seven hundredths.
Barrichello clocked 1:15.728, the first into the 1:15 bracket for the day, but Trulli retaliated with a 1:15.612, the gap between them just over a tenth. Further down the field, Olivier Panis was the better of the Toyotas, ninth, Cristiano da Matta 12th, and Massa led the way for Sauber in 11th. The Jordans were lapping over two seconds off the pace and only Baumgartner made it out in the second session for Minardi.
Raikkonen put in a 1:15.034, but Alonso made the 1:14 bracket with 1:14.825, Michael a tenth behind. Trulli and Coulthard demoted them both in first and second respectively, 1:14.016 for the Renault and six tenths clear of the McLaren. Trulli was on a par with the rest in the first sector but the last two were faster by far. Webber only completed four laps before suffering another engine fire. Jaguar is not sure if it was caused by the same problem as on Thursday but the damage was not as bad.
Ralf improved to third fastest and Sato to second, the BAR just four thousandths behind Trulli. Michael bettered Jarno's time by an even smaller margin, two thousandths, to take the top slot with 1:14.014. Button moved up to sixth but it remained static at the top. Qualifying looks set to be the closest yet -- Michael has to be the favourite but it's by no means a certainty. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Trulli, Sato, Alonso, Montoya, Button, Coulthard, R. Schumacher.