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McLaren still in charge in final practice 15 Oct 2005

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, 14 October 2005

Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya headed practice here in Shanghai this morning, but the Renaults were not far behind.

Having been fastest in the first session on 1m 34.253s, Raikkonen dipped down to 1m 33.212s in the second. Conditions today are more favourable than they were yesterday, with clear skies and less wind. Montoya’s lap of 1m 33.554s put him second with champion Fernando Alonso third on 1m 33.793s. Giancarlo Fisichella, who was third fastest in the first session, ended the morning fourth with 1m 34.392s.

A surprise fifth quickest was David Coulthard, who took his Red Bull RB01 round in 1m 34.453s (and was delighted with his lap). By contrast, team mate Christian Klien was 12th, on 1m 35.179s, the Austrian having failed to set a time at all in the first 45 minutes.

Rubens Barrichello raised Ferrari’s hopes with sixth fastest time of 1m 34.5353s, which left him just ahead of Jenson Button (1m 34.729s), Michael Schumacher (1m 34.807s), Antonio Pizzonia (1m 34.835s) and Mark Webber (1m 35.004s).

Jarno Trulli was Toyota’s leading runner on 1m 35.107s, but Ralf Schumacher was down in 15th on 1m 35.371s so close were the midfield times. In between them came Klien, Takuma Sato (1m 35.280s) and Narain Karthikeyan (1m 35.310s). Tiago Monteiro lapped his Jordan in 1m 35.488s, and that beat the Saubers of Felipe Massa (1m 35.693s) and Jacques Villeneuve (1m 35.417s) which were 17th and 19th. Christijan Albers split them with 1m 36.397s, and Robert Doornbos brought up the tail end with 1m 36.558s.

Both sessions featured some off-track action. In the first Schumacher Snr twice went off the road, in Turns Two and 14; the latter corner also claimed Trulli and Montoya, while Pizzonia had a moment in Nine, Doornbos in 11 and Albers 13. In the second session Turn 14 ‘claimed’ Monteiro, Karthikeyan and Button; Sato and Fisichella each went off in Two, and Villeneuve spun.

Qualifying this afternoon will be fascinating.