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Saturday practice review - Montoya again 13 Sep 2003

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, 13 September 2003

In Hungary Williams and Ferrari battled for supremacy in Saturday morning's two sessions, and it proved the case again in Italy this morning. Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest overall, his 1m 21.468s lap in the day's second session just bettering Michael Schumacher's 1m 21.623s from the first. The German also improved, to 1m 21.586s, but not enough to beat the Colombian. "We worked on different downforce levels," Montoya said, "and the final result was very satisfying."

Schumacher was also bullish. "I am very happy with things," he said. "I think it is possible for us to fight for pole position. We had no problems."

Marc Gene, who said that he had received the most unusual wake up call of his life when he was summoned at short notice to replace the incapacitated Ralf Schumacher, did a brilliant job to sit right behind Montoya in the opening session (1nm 22.685s to 1m 22.646s), and then improved right at the end of the second (when it was restarted for five minutes after being red-flagged as Panis's engine blew up) to go third overall on 1m 21.928s.

Kimi Raikkonen (1m 22.091s) and Rubens Barrichello (1m 22.108s) were close behind, and David Coulthard had a much better morning to set sixth fastest time on 1m 22.134s. Where Schumacher was happy with his car, this time it was Barrichello who complained of lack of grip.

Ron Dennis said: "Everyone was scrubbing tyres and checking out fuel loads, and I don't think that anyone has really shown their hand yet. It looks like Ferrari has some balance problems, which is always encouraging."

Toyota's strong form continued, with Olivier Panis getting his TF103 better set up to take the seventh best time of 1m 22.321s, despite an electronics problem early on and then that rare engine breakage at the end. Team mate Cristiano da Matta did not repeat yesterday's form, preferring to focus on tyre and set-up work for the race, but was content with his 12th best 1m 23.195s.

On this power circuit Renault had been expected to struggle in comparison with its excellent form at the Hungaroring, and had to settle for eighth place for Jarno Trulli (1m 22.333s) and Fernando Alonso 10th (1m 22.399s). The Italian had no problems but the Spaniard still complained of excessive understeer and said he hoped to find something for qualifying as he was not at ease in the R23. Between them was on an-form Jenson Button in the BAR, with Jacques Villeneuve right behind. The Englishman recorded 1m 22.378s, the French-Canadian 1m 22.906s. "We got through the programme without any technical problems," said technical director Geoff Willis. "Our overnight thoughts seem to have paid off."

Jaguar had a troubled morning with Mark Webber down in 13th on 1m 23.195s and Justin Wilson 16th on 1m 23.955s. Both men complained of lack of straight-line speed and tyre wear problems.

Behind them the two Sauber drivers struggled to get their new aerodynamic package fully balanced and ended up having to discard the new engine covers that had been insufficiently tested because of Nick Heidfeld's shunt in the previous week's test. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was 14th on 1m 23.461s, Heidfeld 15th on 1m 23.846s.

Jordan and Minardi comprised the final quartet, as has become the norm in recent races, but this time Jos Verstappen separated Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 24.627s) and Zsolt Baumgartner (1m 25.916s). Nicolas Kiesa brought up the rear again on 1n 26.160s.

Williams, Ferrari and McLaren all go into qualifying this afternoon convinced that they are in with a strong shout of taking pole position, as the world championship battle heats up.

Click here for the practice results in full.