Ferrari one-two in Saturday practice 25 Sep 2004
It was all red in final practice as Michael Schumacher became the first man to lap the Shanghai International Circuit in less than 1m 34s. To rub it in, Rubens Barrichello backed him up. The German lapped in 1m 33.448s, the Brazilian 1m 33.796s. The closest anyone else got was Kimi Raikkonens 1m 34.042s for McLaren.
It was a good morning for Ferrari, even though Schumacher slid momentarily off track in the final corner at one stage, and now they appear to have resumed their usual positions at the front of the field as they honed the cars overnight.
Raikkonen was pleased with his lap, and with David Coulthard eighth on 1m 34.470s McLaren are comfortably in the top 10. BARs Jenson Button was right up there too, with fourth fastest time of 1m 34.233s, but the Englishman had Giancarlo Fisichellas Sauber, on its improved Bridgestone tyres, right behind him as the Italian lapped in 1m 34.286s. With Felipe Massa posting a late improvement to 10th with 1m 34.607s it was also a good morning for the Swiss team.
In sixth place Nick Heidfeld stunned a lot of people with a lap of 1m 34.404s for Jordan, and though doubtless this was a reflection of a very low fuel load it was nevertheless a worthy effort from the underrated German.
Williams upstaged Ferrari in the first practice session of the morning, with Ralf Schumacher narrowly ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. The second session, however, wasnt such a good one for the team, with Montoya seventh on 1m 34.458s and Schumacher only 12th on 1m 34.769s, slower than his earlier lap of 1m 34.380s from the first session. The final top 10 runner was Ricardo Zonta, who lapped his Toyota ninth fastest in 1m 34.518s.
Fernando Alonso was the leading Renault driver with 1m 34.627s, but team mate Jacques Villeneuve had a spin and was 15th on 1m 35.309s.
Takuma Sato struggled to balance his BAR as he lapped in 1m 35.155s for 13th, then came Olivier Panis in his Toyota in 1m 35.211s. Behind Villeneuve, Mark Webbers Jaguar was 16th on 1m 35.354s with team mate Christian Klien, who had an off-course moment, right behind on 1m 35.869s. Gianmaria Bruni was 18th on 1m 36.748s, ahead of Timo Glock who had a troubled time on his way to 1m 37.158s for Jordan, and Minardi driver Zsolt Baumgartner, who lapped in 1m 38.014s.
Qualifying should favour Ferrari, but behind them the times are so close between McLaren, BAR, Sauber and BMW that an accurate prediction of their closest challengers remains impossible.