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Saturday free practice review - San Marino 19 Apr 2003

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2002 in the pit garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, 19 April 2003

There's been plenty of excitement here in Imola this morning, after the two 45-minute sessions of free practice gave the teams their final chance to hone their set-ups and strategy for qualifying.

Ralf Schumacher was fastest up until the point in the second session when he backed his BMW Williams into the wall after losing control in the Variante Alta chicane. "I just hope we can repair the car and that I don't have to switch to the T-car," the German said, "because the car was close to perfect today."

BMW Williams did a lot of work in particular with tyre pressures to alleviate a graining issue. Ralf Schumacher finished the session second fastest, and though Juan Pablo Montoya was only eighth he too was very happy: "We improved the car a lot and I didn't want to change much by the end because it felt so good."

The two Ferrari drivers expressed similar sentiments, even though both had moments across gravel beds after running out of road. "We did a lot of set-up work, both mechanical and aerodynamic," Michael Schumacher said. "We were able to get consistent times out of the tyres and I'm feeling pretty confident for the race." He was fifth fastest, Barrichello quickest of all.

Mark Webber lost a lot of time in the first and second sessions because of an hydraulic pressure problem, but made up for that with third fastest time for Jaguar in the dying moments. Team-mate Antonio Pizzonia, however, suffered an engine failure early on.

David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen admitted that setting their cars up for Imola is proving trickier than it did in the previous three races, but the team made some progress. "We are having a difficult time," the Scot said, "but we are more competitive than we were yesterday."

Renault is happier, with Alonso sixth quickest, but Trulli spun at Variante Alta and later spoiled what should have been his best lap when he slid over the gravel at Rivazza.

In the BAR Honda camp Jacques Villeneuve has the upper hand at present. Jenson Button said that his initial oversteer had become understeer but that the balance was getting better all the time, while both Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta felt that changes to their Toyotas had made their cars far more composed over bumps. Nick Heidfeld confessed that he was having difficulties with the balance of his Sauber Petronas, while team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen blew an engine after only six laps.

Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella suffered a spin, team-mate Ralph Firman's engine broke, while the Minardi drivers continue to be separated by the proverbial cigarette paper, with Justin Wilson only two-tenths of a second off Jos Verstappen.

Any rain is unlikely to come until late in the afternoon, so qualifying should be overcast but dry.