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BMW Sauber one-two in final practice 01 Apr 2006

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) BMW Sauber F1.06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 31 March 2006

Rain this morning left Albert Park a greasy skating rink in time for the final practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

When conditions were at their worst a whole raft of luminaries departed from the grey stuff and explored the colourful pink gravel traps: Felipe Massa spun in Turn 10, where Yuji Ide also went off-roading; Jarno Trulli went off in Turn 1, as did Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso (twice). Nico Rosberg explored the limits in Turn 15, as did Giancarlo Fisichella; Jenson Button, Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi spun in Turn 4, Mark Webber slid on to the grass in Turn 18, and Christijan Albers spun and stopped in Turn 6. For a while it was all very exciting.

Fisichella set the initial pace with 1m 39.879s, succeeded in turn by Alonso, Button and Jacques Villeneuve as parts of the course began to dry out.

The BMWs stayed on the pace, with Nick Heidfeld eventually setting the fastest time of 1m 35.335s to edge out Villeneuve’s 1m 36.281s. Tonio Liuzzi pushed his Toro Rosso round in 1m 36.373s to head Fisichella (1m 36.414s) and Ralf Schumacher (1m 36.445s). Felipe Massa was sixth on 1m 36.506s.

Michael Schumacher in the second Ferrari failed to break 1m 36s, but the times need to be taken with a inch of salt as nobody was going to risk equipment prior to qualifying. The former champion lapped in 1m 37.332s, beating Rubens Barrichello on 1m 37.481s, Jarno Trulli on 1m 37.492s and Scott Speed on 1m 37.852s. Just outside the top 10, Klien took his Red Bull round in 1m 37.947s.

Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg continued their equipment preservation strategy for Williams, the Australian being content with 1m 38.036s for 12th, the German 1m 39.401s for 15th. Between them sat Button (1m 38.505s) and David Coulthard (1m 38.683s).

Tiago Monteiro sat right behind Rosberg with 1m 39.515s for Midland, but Albers did not record a time.

Alonso didn’t bother after his opening stint and was thus right down the order with 1m 39.654s, followed by Ide on 1m 40.261s and Takuma Sato on 1m 41.448s for Super Aguri.

McLaren clearly didn’t think it was worth pushing hard; Montoya was 20th on 1m 44.350s, Kimi Raikkonen 21st on 1m 48.284s.

The weather is clearing up now, which means the track should be almost dry for the first stint of qualifying, but if there is a message here so far today it is that Melbourne’s conditions are far from settled.