Michael Schumacher was over a second clear of the rest of the field in Saturday morning's last practice for the Japanese Grand Prix with a best time of 1:30.653. The Ferrari was 1.2 ahead of Ralf Schumacher's Toyota and Honda's Jenson Button was...
Michael Schumacher was over a second clear of the rest of the field in Saturday morning's last practice for the Japanese Grand Prix with a best time of 1:30.653. The Ferrari was 1.2 ahead of Ralf Schumacher's Toyota and Honda's Jenson Button was third. The Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso were fourth and fifth.
The temperatures were a little higher than Friday, with the track in the low thirties and the air around 25 degrees as Super Aguri's Takuma Sato led out. The Spyker MF1s of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro followed on and Sato posted 1:37.413 on his first couple of laps. The Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed joined the track along with Toyota's Jarno Trulli and the Red Bull of David Coulthard.
Super Aguri's Sakon Yamamoto and the second Red Bull of Robert Doornbos were next and Trulli clocked 1:35.800 on his first effort. Liuzzi took second, then Sato and Albers in quick succession, while Monteiro was fifth, Coulthard sixth and Speed seventh. Trulli improved to 1:35.771 then Albers took over with a fractionally better 1:35.717. Coulthard went up to third and Doornbos posted fifth.
Yamamoto started with ninth and Ralf's Toyota arrived in the third spot, followed by Nico Rosberg's Williams into fourth. Teammate Mark Webber took eighth and Ralf demoted Albers with a 1:35.251, half a second up. McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari's Felipe Massa were next to appear, while Rosberg improved to second, two and a half tenths off Ralf.
The Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Button headed out, along with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, and Rosberg took over at the top, 1:34.968. Massa went fastest on his first flyer, 1:34.552, and Raikkonen took third but de la Rosa was a lowly 12th. Massa improved to 1:33.837 and de la Rosa climbed to seventh while Button and Barrichello posted 12th and 17th respectively.
Michael slotted in behind Massa, eight tenths off, and Kubica took 15th. Button moved up to sixth and Michael clocked fastest sectors all round to post 1:33.268, six tenths up on his teammate. Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber arrived in sixth and Fisichella's Renault in 12th, while Alonso was the last man to take to the track and his Renault began with fifth.
Michael was still lapping, his next a 1:32.716 to leave Massa over a second down. Alonso climbed to third and Liuzzi went up to eighth after being moved down the order. Speed, who by then had been shuffled down to the back, improved to 13th and after half an hour things went a bit quieter on track. Sato shot up the times to fourth and Albers went back to third after being moved down.
In contrast the likes of Fisichella, Barrichello, Kubica and Webber were towards the back. De la Rosa improved a few places to 11th and Massa closed the gap to Michael to three tenths. Albers and Alonso were 1.2 off the lead Ferrari and the rest over two seconds and more adrift at the time. Barrichello struggled up to 17th and Raikkonen made a small effort to take fifth ahead of Sato.
Monteiro jumped up from the back to sixth and Ralf put in a hot lap to clock 1:31.863, eight and a half tenths up on Michael. Kubica and Fisichella traded the 11th spot and Barrichello finally escaped the back markers and posted fourth. Doornbos and Webber, who had likewise been down the times, took fourth and fifth respectively and were then dropped a place each by Rosberg improving to third.
Liuzzi also made a move, up to fourth, and there was the usual last minute activity. Coulthard went up to seventh and Speed to sixth then de la Rosa took it, and backmarker Button belted up to second, four tenths off Ralf. Raikkonen took fifth and Kubica sixth then Heidfeld improved to third, while Michael once again set fastest sectors across the board to post 1:30.653 for the top.
Alonso and Fisichella put in final fliers to take fourth consecutively, both nearly two seconds off Michael. Some teammates were quite split, with Massa down in 10th and Trulli 20th, Button third and Barrichello 18th. The Renaults and BMWs were of a similar pace and the McLarens not too far apart but it was a rather divided session.
Presuming the weather stays dry it looks likely to be a Ferrari and Renault battle for pole, although you never know. McLaren and Honda can't be counted out and Toyota will want a good home result, but Ferrari appears to have the pace this morning. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Button, Fisichella, Alonso, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Raikkonen.