McLaren top, but BAR looking threatening
Pedro de la Rosa remained top dog for McLaren after this afternoons second practice session, lapping in 1m 20.484s which is just outside Michael Schumachers 1m 20.411s lap record. The Spaniards only problem was being fined $5000 for exiting the pit lane first thing this morning against the red light.
The man who was fastest for the majority of the session, however, was BARs Jenson Button, who in just three laps dipped below de la Rosas morning best with 1m 21.052s before concentrating thereafter on race configuration running. The Briton, and his team, look very confident at present.
McLarens Kimi Raikkonen continued to look like a threat with third fastest time of 1m 21.704s, ahead of late improver Ricardo Zonta for Toyota, and championship leader Fernando Alonso in the Renault. Zonta lapped in 1m 21.889s right at the end, while the Spaniard came out in the final 20 minutes to record 1m 21.899s.
Michael Schumacher was sixth for Ferrari, feeling cautiously optimistic after his best lap of 1m 22.025s, and team mate Rubens Barrichello backed him with a seventh-best 1m 22.048s.
Alexander Wurz was eighth on 1m 22.174s for McLaren, and Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella and BARs Takuma Sato rounded out the top 10 with 1m 22.211s and 1m 22.335s respectively.
The Saubers showed improved form with their revised engine covers and rear-end aerodynamic trimmings, with Felipe Massa lapping in 1m 22.791s and Jacques Villeneuve looking a lot happier on 1m 22.955s. There is a fly in Peter Saubers ointment, however, as Massas car needs an engine change after the original unit showed signs of distress having previously run hot during the race in Bahrain.
Jarno Trulli focused on race running for Toyota and was only 13th on 1m 23.343s, and Ralf Schumacher was 15th on 1m 23.466s. The German had a spin exiting the Variante Alta at one stage.
Between the Toyotas, Nick Heidfeld remained the faster Williams driver on 1m 23.458s, with Mark Webber only 18th on 1m 23.964s. They were separated by David Coulthard in the fastest Red Bull (1m 23.815s) and the very on-form Narain Karthikeyan who pushed his Jordan to 1m 23.842s. It is likely, however, that both FW27s were running reasonable fuel loads.
Christian Klien was 19th with 1m 24.320s for Red Bull, ahead of Jordans Tiago Monteiro (1m 24.573s) and Vitantonio Liuzzi in the third Red Bull on 1m 24.626s.
Robert Doornbos lapped in 1m 25.172s in his Jordan before going off at Acque Minerale and knocking the front wing askew. Finally, Patrick Friesacher was the last timed runner for Minardi on 1m 26.620s as team mate Christijan Albers was confined to the garage with new-car problems on his PS05.