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Alonso tops Raikkonen in final practice 10 Sep 2005

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, 10 September 2005

In complete contrast to Friday, Spa has thus far been bathed again in sunshine, and as practice resumed this morning it developed into a gripping fight between title rivals Renault and McLaren.

Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the first session with 1m 48.125s from Juan Pablo Montoya, but Fernando Alonso moved ahead in the second as he reduced his lap time to 1m 46.€07s. Raikkonen was right behind this time with 1m 46.641s followed by on-form Jarno Trulli on 1m 46.681s for Toyota and Montoya on 1m 46.858s.

Renault’s super-competitive form so far has been a surprise, but both they and McLaren have had engine dramas. Giancarlo Fisichella did both sessions with a question mark over his V10, which will now be changed before qualifying. He will thus have a 10 grid place penalty. Meanwhile, Montoya’s Mercedes V10 was changed yesterday as a precaution. Since this was done without the Colombian crossing the pit lane exit line, however, no penalty will be incurred.

Fisichella has been very quick all morning and was fifth overall on 1m 47.049s, with Ralf Schumacher staging a late improvement to sixth on 1m 47.054s. Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were seventh and eighth respectively for BAR, with 1m 47.419s and 1m 47.507s apiece, and then came the Ferraris. Michael Schumacher went off the road at Fagnes but then lapped in 1m 47.77€s, and after sitting out the first session Rubens Barrichello pushed his F2005 round in 1m 47.991s.

Eleventh place was taken right at the end by Williams’s Antonio Pizzonia with 1m 48.092s, followed by Sauber’s Jacques Villeneuve (1m 48.204s), then their team mates Mark Webber (1m 48.21€s) and Felipe Massa (1m 48.551s). The Red Bulls were also winging round in formation, with David Coulthard supplanting team mate Christian Klien in the closing minutes, 1m 48.866s versus 1m 48.877s. Klien’s effort to go quicker ended with an off-road moment on the exit to Pouhon.

At the back Minardi aced Jordan. Christijan Albers recorded 1m 49.166s with team mate Robert Doornbos right behind him in 1m 49.208s, while Tiago Monteiro beat Narain Karthikeyan 1m 50.740s to 1m 51.594s.

Everyone must now make their tyre choice, and it looks as though the good weather will hold for qualifying, though at Spa it can change very quickly.