New engine for pacesetter Schumacher 18 Mar 2006
Michael Schumacher recorded the fastest time so far this weekend in Sepang this morning, as practice resumed. But the Germans car will get a fresh engine this afternoon, which means that he, team mate Felipe Massa, and Ferrari V8-engined David Coulthard will all start further towards the back of the grid with 10 place penalties, regardless of what they do in qualifying this afternoon. For each of them the best that will be on offer is 11th place.
Schumacher hustled his Bridgestone-shod Ferrari round in 1m 34.126s, but Michelin-tyred Fernando Alonso appeared to back off on a quick lap for Renault, yet still took second place with 1m 34.180s. Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella was third on 1m 34.585s, and three other drivers got below 1m 35s.
Jenson Button lapped his Honda in 1m 34.616s, Christian Klien was quick for Red Bull with 1m 34.815s, and Kimi Raikkonen was there for McLaren with 1m 34.854s.
Ralf Schumacher gave Toyota a boost with 1m 35.040s, Williams Nico Rosberg staged a late improvement for 1m 35.242s, Coulthard managed 1m 35.639s and Jarno Trulli rounded out the top 10 for Toyota with 1m 35.690s.
The session was run in ambient temperatures that reached 36 degrees Celsius at one point, while the track was measured at 44. Clearly, tyre performance is going to have a crucial influence in both qualifying and the race.
It was equally clear that some drivers were on different programmes to their team mates this morning. Rubens Barrichello, for instance, lapped his Honda in 1m 36.655s and Juan Pablo Montoya his McLaren in 1m 37.053s. They will got a lot faster in qualifying.
Mark Webber was 11th for Williams with 1m 35.700s, while Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld were close in the midfield for BMW Sauber. The French-Canadian posted 1m 36.144s, the German 1m 36.505s. Tonio Liuzzi was close to them for Toro Rosso on 1m 36.549s. After Barrichello and Montoya came Massa, who had a spin in Turn 13 that may have been the result of a Bridgestone tyre problem, or the cause of it. The Brazilian recorded 1m 37.148s and was not very happy.
Christijan Albers was Midlands faster runner on 1m 37.232s, ahead of Scott Speed (1m 37.437s), Tiago Monteiro (who spun and was for a while beached, before lapping in 1m 37.900s), and the Super Aguris posted 1m 38.821s (Takuma Sato) and 1m 40.542s (Yuji Ide).