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Schumacher heads Renaults in Saturday practice

NEWS STORY
18/03/2006

Without the benefit of the third drivers, we can hope to see the big guns run a little more mileage in this morning's session, as they prepare for the forthcoming qualifying session.

The air temperature is 35 degrees C, and the track temperature is 40 degrees, it is overcast, with a few rain clouds in the distance.

First out is Christijan Albers, with Ide, Monteiro, Sato and Liuzzi hot on his heels.

As the quintet returns to the pits, having completed the installation lap, Coulthard, Massa and Trulli come out to 'test the water'.

Massa is the first driver to post a time, crossing the line at 1:37.444, moments later, Coulthard goes second with a 1:38.897. Elsewhere, Alonso, Ralf Schumacher and Scott Speed are on track.

Massa improves (37.361), as Trulli goes third and Button fourth, however, moments later the order is changed when Alonso posts a 1:36.989, to go quickest.

As Button, Fisichella and Barrichello come out to play, Alonso goes even quicker, raising the benchmark to 1:36.485.

Fisichella takes third spot, ahead of Trulli, but moments later they are both demoted by Button, who goes second (37.352). It doesn't last long however, as Fisichella posts 1:36.551, to give Renault first and second on the timesheets.

As Monteiro goes off, but continues, Liuzzi, Villeneuve, Klien and Raikkonen are all on track.

Fisichella gores quickest in the two final sectors to take the top spot, the Italian posts a 1:36.066.

Villeneuve goes ninth, as Raikkonen claims fourth with his first time of the day (37.255). Moments later however, the Canadian splits the two Renaults with a 1:36.416.

Michael Schumacher is on track, and from the outset he's quick, going fastest in the first two sectors. He crosses the line at 1:35.985, taking his place at the top of the table. Moments later he improves with a 35.729.

Michael's stint at the top of the timesheets is short and sweet, for he is soon bumped down to second by his brother, who posts an incredible 1:35.040 - remember, this is the Toyota we're talking about.

With just two minutes before the half-way point, it's: Ralf, Michael, Fisichella, Villeneuve, Alonso, Heidfeld, Button, Massa, Raikkonen and Rosberg. The only driver who has not made an appearance is Mark Webber, as WilliamsF1 continues its 'softly softly' approach.

After the proverbial 'lull', Christian Klien gets the ball rolling again, going quickest in the first and third sectors, to go quickest with a 1:34.815.

As if to prove this was no 'flash in the pan', David Coulthard goes third with a 1:35.639, only to be almost instantly bumped down to fourth by Michael Schumacher (35.225).

Yes it isn't long before the German is also 'demoted', this time by Raikkonen (34.854), though the seven-time world Champion quickly hits back with a 1:34.126. Almost unseen, Mark Webber has taken seventh place with a 1:35.991.

With fifteen minutes remaining, there are only three cars on track; Alonso, Massa and Trulli.

With ten minutes remaining, and little action, Montoya and Barrichello are both keeping the Super Aguris company at the bottom of the timesheets. The McLaren clearly has a problem, having only completed a couple of laps. That said, the Colombian leaves the pits.

Jenson button takes second with a 1:34.616, as his teammate sets a personal best in the first sector. The Brazilian maintains the pace in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 1:35.655, to go fourteenth. Meanwhile, Montoya, who had strong first and second sectors, loses a heap of time in the third, and consequently fails to improve.

Massa spins off at Turn 13, but is able to continue. That said, both left tyres look damaged.

As Montoya improves to fifteenth, Alonso goes quickest in the first sector. The Spaniard is quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 1:34.180, to take second behind Schumacher.

Worth noting that Michael is quickest through three of the speed-traps, Villeneuve being quickest in the fourth.

With just over a minute remaining, Fisichella goes quickest in the second sector. Rosberg goes seventh (35.242), as Fisichella improves to third with a 1:34.585.

As the session comes to an end, Coulthard goes off but is able to continue

As the chequered flag is waved, Michael is quickest, ahead of Alonso, Fisichella, Button, Klien, Raikkonen, Ralf, Rosberg, Coulthard and Trulli.

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