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McLaren one-two in tense final practice 28 May 2005

Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 28 May 2005

With one second bracketing the nine fastest drivers this morning, the fight for the Grand Prix of Europe at Nurburgring really is heating up. As the sun continued to roast the race track, McLaren drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya slogged it out for the fastest man honours.

After Raikkonen had lapped his MP4-20 in 1m 29.798s the Colombian aced him by 0.009s with 1m 29.789s, but close to the end of the second session the Finn hit back with 1m 29.680s, the closest anyone has got to Michael Schumacher’s 2004 pole time of 1m 28.351s.

Right behind them, the Renault duo were also in the hunt. Fernando Alonso lapped in 1m 29.987s, Giancarlo Fisichella in 1m 30.071s. Then there was a half second gap to Jarno Trulli who took his Toyota round in 1m 30.552s, which Nick Heidfeld just failed to beat in the dying moments with 1m 30.559s for Williams.

BAR wound up the wick, as promised, pushing into the top 10 with Takuma Sato seventh on 1m 30.645s and Jenson Button ninth with 1m 30.773s. Ralf Schumacher pushed between them with 1m 30.692s for Toyota, and brother Michael was 10th on 1m 31.026s, making up ground after electrical problems yesterday afternoon. Rubens Barrichello was four-tenths off his Ferrari team leader with 1m 31.449s.

Tonio Liuzzi made a big improvement with his Red Bull to jump into 12th place with 1m 31.572s, while team mate David Coulthard was 15th on 1m 32.172s. Mark Webber missed the flag just as he was embarking on a quick lap for Williams, so ended the morning only 13th on 1m 32.054s. Meanwhile, the Saubers continued to struggle, with Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve 14th and 16th on 1m 32.079s and 1m 33.140s respectively.

Christijan Albers wound his new Minardi PS05 round in a very impressive 1m 33.977s, which comfortably outpaced Tiago Monteiro’s Jordan, in which the Portuguese driver recorded 1m 34.527s. His team mate Narain Karthikeyan went off the road in Turn 1 early in the session, but recovered for 1m 34.640s, and Patrick Friesacher was 20th and last on 1m 35.087s in his Minardi.

Now, of course, there is only the one qualifying session to come, so it will be critical. As things stand after practice today, McLaren, Renault, Toyota, Williams, BAR Honda and Ferrari can all entertain thoughts of victory and/or podiums.