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Raikkonen in charge on day one 27 Aug 2004

Pole sitter Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/19B in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, British Grand Prix, Rd 11, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, 10 July 2004

The Belgian Grand Prix remains wide open after today’s second practice session saw Kimi Raikkonen heading the times for McLaren and Michael Schumacher only third in his Ferrari.

It was a reflection of the conflicting demands that this majestic track imposes that nobody was dominant in all three sectors of the long lap; some set their car up for higher downforce than others, which meant that different cars suited different segments.

Raikkonen’s best was 1m 44.701s, the only lap beneath the 1m 45s bracket, and was the fastest of the day, his McLaren looking stable and quick. Behind him, Jenson Button carried the fight to Ferrari for BAR with a lap of 1m 45.015s, leaving Schumacher third on 1m 45.137s. Today the champion looked just a tad shaky at times, continually arriving late at the Bus Stop chicane, and spinning on the exit to Turn 14 at one point.

He was just ahead of Anthony Davidson, who continued to stake his claim to a 2005 race drive with fourth fastest time of 1m 45.437s, and Takuma Sato endorsed BAR’s promise with 1m 45.451s. David Coulthard was also right in there in his McLaren, on 1m 45.507s, and he had Antonio Pizzonia breathing down his neck in the faster of the two Williams on 1m 45.559s. Rubens Barrichello (1m 45.625s), Fernando Alonso (1m 45.658s), Juan Pablo Montoya (1m 45.678s), Felipe Massa (1m 45.960s) and Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 45.978s) were also right in the hunt.

Jaguar fared less well than this morning, but Mark Webber was a strong 12th with 1m 46.471s. Team mates Bjorn Wirdheim and Christian Klien were 17th and 18th this time, with 1m 47.265s and 1m 47.370s respectively. Separating the green cars were the Toyotas of Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta (1m 46.528s and 1m 46.902s) and Jarno Trulli’s Renault (1m 46.912s).

Ryan Briscoe was 19th overall, even though his session ended with 44 minutes remaining. Going into Eau Rouge his Toyota may have suffered a rear-end failure, possibly a tyre, and was pitched into the right-hand barriers before sliding wildly across the full width of the track to impact with the tyre wall on the left. The young Australian, whose 1m 47.634s lap had been fourth fastest up to that point, emerged unharmed from what had been a very high speed accident.

Zsolt Baumgartner won the Minardi versus Jordan battle with a lap of 1m 48.867s, narrowly edging out the yellow cars of Nick Heidfeld (1m 48.803s), Timo Glock (1m 48.817s) and Giorgio Pantano (1m 48.962s). Bas Leinders was 24th, his 1m 49.480s beating Minardi running partner Gianmaria Bruni’s 1m 49.742s.

Needless to say, different people were doing different things today, in terms of race preparation and tyre choice, but thus far the intimations are that this race may be closer than most others this season.