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Fisichella leads Renault fightback 06 Oct 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 SA06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Christijan Albers (NDL) Spyker MF1 Racing with girlfriend Liselorr Kooijman (NDL).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella put Renault just ahead of Ferrari at the end of Friday's practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. Fisichella made up for some of the criticism he came in for after last weekend's Chinese race by beating the scarlet cars of Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher into second and third places at Suzuka. Fernando Alonso was fourth.

The Italian took his Renault round in 1m 34.337s to keep ahead of the Brazilian (1m 34.408s) and the German (1m 34.565s). Alonso was close behind them with 1n 34.863s and the day’s other ‘aces’ were Honda’s Anthony Davidson (1m 34.906s) and BMW Sauber’s Sebastian Vettel (1m 34.912s).

At the start of the session Davidson immediately lapped at the speed he had worked down to this morning (1m 45.347s) and the initially damp track conditions improved steadily until a dry line had appeared all round the lap by the end. That prompted a flurry of improvements.

Jenson Button had one good lap spoiled when he slid over the chicane, but he made amends with seventh fastest 1n 35.002s for Honda to pip McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa (1m 35.064s), Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m 35.343s), Kimi Raikkonen (1m 35.367s) in the second McLaren, Ralf Schumacher (1m 35.375s) in the other Toyota, an impressive Michael Ammermuller, who at one stage was fastest for Red Bull (1m 35.433s), Honda’s Rubens Barrichello (1m 35.528s) and Williams’ Mark Webber (1m 35.866s).

Nico Rosberg just missed out on this 1m 35s bracket with 1m 36.176s which left him 15th for Williams ahead of Christijan Albers (1m 36.180s) in the Spyker MF1, Alexander Wurz (1m 36.234s) in the Williams, BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica (1m 36.299s), Super Aguri’s Franck Montagny (at one stage second fastest to Michael Schumacher and an eventual 19th on 1m 36.354s), Toro Rosso’s Tonio Liuzzi (1m 36.441s) and Scott Speed (1m 36.501s), Red Bull’s David Coulthard (1m 36.596s), Spker MF1’s Tiago Monteiro (1m 36.702s), Neel Jani in the Toro Rosso (1m 36.741s) and the Red Bull of Robert Doornbos (1m 36.788s).

At the back came local hero Takuma Sato on 1m 38.533s in the Super Aguri, followed by BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld on 1m 38.799s and Sakon Yamamoto on 1m 38.955s in the final Aguri. Adrian Sutil was last on 1m 43.914s after showing well in the early damp stages before his Spyker MF1 seemingly broke its Toyota engine.

The scene is thus set for a fantastic battle on Saturday between Renault and Ferrari, with the present indications suggesting they are very evenly matched.