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Saturday free practice review 14 Jun 2003

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2003-GA.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 14 June 2003

Ferrari continued to dominate track time for the Canadian Grand Prix this morning, in two practice sessions that began with a soaked track and ended with the emergence of something approaching a dry line.

Despite an off-track moment in the first corner that saw him touch a wall, Michael Schumacher asserted himself over team mate Rubens Barrichello, who had led the way on Friday, and the two red cars were comfortably the fastest with laps of 1m 23.385s and 1m 23.677s respectively.

"We ran the extreme wets and then intermediates and did a lot of set-up work," Schumacher said. "I'm very happy with the electronic work we did on traction control, and when I went off the impact was very soft and did no real damage."

Behind the F2003-GAs, Michelin runners Fernando Alonso, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard only got among the other Bridgestone cars as the track began to dry out.

Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella was third overall in a session in which, according to engineer Gary Anderson, the team spent most of its time playing catch-up, and when it was wet Ralph Firman was also impressively quick in the sister EJ13. He ended up 14th, after failing to run when the track was at its best.

Likewise Nick Heidfeld was very quick in his Sauber, but slipped down to 11th after deciding to save his tyres by not running towards the end.

That left Alonso and Ralf Schumacher and Coulthard to jump up to fourth, fifth and sixth overall, Schumacher particularly pleased by steady work to hone the balance of his Williams.

Jenson Button was another to hold his fire at the end of the session, but only after setting fourth best time at one stage early on. The Englishman said he was feeling no ill effects from his Monaco accident and felt much happier with his car than he had the previous day.

It was not a good session for Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who spun his Sauber early on and then suffered an engine failure; nor for Cristiano da Matta who crashed his Toyota in Turn 7 early in the second session.

Teams are now working frantically to optimise their cars for fresh conditions this afternoon. The weather is clearing and there is little prospect of further rain. Practice sessions for the Ferrari 360 and Formula Renault support races have further dried a line around the track. The engineers can therefore only estimate the optimum settings for dry qualifying. This could hand an advantage to Jaguar, Renault, Jordan and Minardi, who all ran in the dry during private testing on Friday morning.