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Bridgestone look strong on day one 08 Oct 2004

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber Petronas C23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004 Timo Glock (GER) Jordan Ford EJ14.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004 Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber Petronas C23 walks away after crashing in the first session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004 Christian Klien (AUT) Jaguar R5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004

As the rain continued to plague Suzuka this afternoon, Bridgestone runners Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella remained the fastest runners in second practice. The champion lapped his Ferrari in 1m 45.388s, the Sauber driver in 1m 46.102s. Kimi Raikkonen, Michelin’s top driver, was half a second slower, on 1m 46.749s just ahead of Rubens Barrichello’s 1m 46.874s. Alone in the 1m 48s bracket was David Coulthard, on 1m 48.033s.

Rubbing in the Bridgestone message, Jordan drivers Timo Glock and Nick Heidfeld were sixth and seventh on 1m 49.277s and 1m 49.286s respectively, ahead of local hero Takuma Sato who pushed his BAR to 1m 49.370s. Anthony Davidson was right behind his team mate with 1m 49.598s, but Jenson Button left his run until later in the session when the rain got even heavier, and had to settle for 20th fastest 1m 53.482s.

Jacques Villeneuve was pleased to shade Renault team mate Fernando Alonso, 1m 49.672s to 1m 49.712s, and Ralf Schumacher in 12th place on 1m 49.736s rounded out the runners who lapped below 1m 50s.

Right behind the German was his Williams team mate Juan Pablo Montoya (1m 50.060s), followed by Jarno Trulli, in his first Toyota race outing, and Mark Webber (1m 50.386s and 1m 50.666s).

Robert Doornbos continued his Formula One education aboard the third Jordan, with which he set the 16th best time of 1m 51.007s, which was sufficient to keep Christian Klien (1m 52.232s), Bas Leinders (1m 52.941s), Gianmari Bruni (1m 53.194s) and Button behind him. Zsolt Baumgartner was the last man to set a time, 1m 54.703s for Minardi. Felipe Massa again aquaplaned off the track in his Sauber, even though he was running slowly as the sudden heavy downpour had obliged him to abort a quick lap, and Olivier Panis only did an installation lap for Toyota.

Typhoon 22 is due to hit Suzuka at around midnight, and the aftermath is expected to leave sections of the circuit underwater, as was the case with Typhoon 21 a few weeks ago. Just in case the stewards and race officials are meeting this evening to discuss how to form the grid if there is no qualifying tomorrow. Suggestions so far include championship order, Shanghai qualifying order (not so good for Michael Schumacher), or this afternoon’s practice times.

The only time a world championship race has previously been postponed was at Spa in 1983, but Sunday’s forecast is much better, so the race seems certain to go ahead as planned.