BAR versus Ferrari in final practice 19 Jun 2004
A tight qualifying session in prospect for US race
BAR's Jenson Button staked his claim to Michael Schumachers throne here at Indianapolis this morning, by setting the fastest practice time just ahead of the reigning world champion's Ferrari.
After a quiet first session, in which Rubens Barrichello again set the pace, Cristiano da Matta went fastest as practice resumed. The Brazilian lapped his Toyota in 1m 10.895s, chased by Schumacher and Jarno Trulli on 1m 11.063s and 1m 11.128s respectively.
Schumacher then reduced his time to 1m 10.566s to go fastest, with Barrichello backing him strongly with 1m 10.712s. That was the way things stayed for much of the session, as Mark Webber provided the excitement by spinning his Jaguar in turn Six and then gently nosing it into a tyre barrier.
Once it was taken away, Button dipped down to 1m 10.056s, just missing the first 1m 9s lap of the Speedway. Then to make it a good session for BAR, Takuma Sato went second on 1m 10.251s. When Barrichello went after them the result was 1m 10.351s for a temporary third fastest time, because that was almost immediately beaten by Schumacher with 1m 10.199s.
And with Juan Pablo Montoya jumping up to fifth on 1m 10.708s, Fernando Alonso pushing his Renault to 1m 10.749s, da Matta cutting his lap to 1m 10.802s, Ralf Schumacher posting 1m 10.820s and Trulli 1m 10.848s, the times were certainly close. This bodes well for qualifying.
Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen completed the top 10 with 1m 11.222s for McLaren, who had his team mate David Coulthard in 12th place on 1m 11.395s. Between them sat Olivier Panis in the second Toyota, on 1m 11.242s.
Further back, Christian Klien was the quicker Jaguar after Webbers excursion, lapping in 1m 11.992s. The Australian, whose car has an uprated Cosworth V10 this week, was left in 15th place on 1m 12.590s. Nick Heidfeld separated then, with 1m 12.524s in his Jordan. His team mate, Giorgio Pantano, was 16th with 1m 12.603s.
The two Saubers were left in 17th and 18th places, both Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 12.686s) and Felipe Massa (1m 12.861s) struggling to hone out oversteer while also trying to do the race set-up work they didnt have time for yesterday.
Finally, at the back, Zsolt Baumgartner aced Minardi team mate Gianmaria Bruni 1m 13.869s to 1m 13.915s.