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Schumacher brothers dominate final practice 07 Oct 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Christijan Albers (NDL) Spyker MF1 Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006

Bridgestone seem to have the edge ahead of qualifying

It was a very odd session. On a bone dry track and with a fair wind the Bridgestone runners appeared to have a massive advantage with, at one stage, only Renault’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen in the top 11 for Michelin and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher, then brother Ralf dominating by handsome margins.

Towards the end the Michelin runners finally began to go fast, but a lap of 1m 30.653s by Michael threw all the calculations and speculation back into the melting pot. Nobody got close to the Ferrari, which finished 1.210s ahead of Ralf’s Toyota on 1m 31.863s, and third fastest man (and leading Michelin runner) Jenson Button was 1.657s off with a best of 1m 32.310s in the Honda.

The session looked like a nightmare for Renault, with Alonso driving the wheels off his R26 and ending up slower than team mate Giancarlo Fisichella who pipped him right at the end. They lapped in 1m 32.527s and 1m 32.555s, leaving them respectively 1.874s and 1.902s adrift of Schumacher.

Nick Heidfeld launched himself from the back of the field to sixth in the dying moments with 1m 32.590s for BMW Sauber, chased by Nico Rosberg for Williams and Bridgestone on 1m 32.730s. That time was matched by Raikkonen’s McLaren, and BMW’s Robert Kubica (1m 32.787s and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa (1m 32.790s) completed the top 10. That’s four Bridgestone runners to six Michelin.

Tonio Liuzzi rowed his Toro Rosso round in 1m 32.977s, to head McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa (1m 33.163s), Scott Speed in the other Toro Rosso (1m 33.213s), Christijan Albers (third at one stage in the Spyker MF1 with his 1m 33.270s), Mark Webber in the Williams (1m 33.339s), David Coulthard and Robert Doornbos for Red Bull (1m 33.451s and 1m 33.663s respectively) and Honda’s Rubens Barrichello (1m 33.748s).

In the final batch came Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m 34.118s), and the Super Aguris. Takuma Sato’s 1m 34.727s at one stage put him fourth, but he failed to improve and dropped to last, pipped by team mate Sakon Yamamoto’s 1m 34.646s.

So, make of that what you will. Was Schumacher running light and were the Renault’s on reasonable fuel? Are Ferrari trying to out psyche Renault? Does Bridgestone have such an advantage that the race will be a foregone conclusion? How much fuel did Ralf Schumacher really have?

Hopefully qualifying will provide at least some of the answers.