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Schumacher leads final practice 22 Apr 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006

Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso continued their battle for supremacy at Imola this morning, with the Ferrari driver again setting the fastest time with a lap of 1m 23.787s as track conditions improved.

Alonso was on a lap whose first sector time was four-tenths below Schumacher’s best, when he encountered traffic and aborted the run. The champion ended the morning second fastest on 1m 24.068s and seems quite happy with his Renault’s performance. Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella got the better of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa for third, but only by a fraction, 1m 24.377s to 1m 24.383s.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth on 1m 24.626s, but McLaren team mate Juan Pablo Montoya did only one installation lap after suffering mechanical problems.

Ralf Schumacher set the initial pace for Toyota, and remained high on the timesheets as an eventual 1m 24.667s lap left him sixth. Jenson Button was next on 1m 26.850s for Honda, followed by an optimistic Jacques Villeneuve for BMW Sauber on 1m 24.916s. The top 10 was completed by Christian Klien for Red Bull with 1m 24.984s and Tonio Liuzzi for Toro Rosso on 1m 24.994s.

Rubens Barrichello’s efforts yielded 1m 25.041s in the second Honda, while a late run brought Williams’ Mark Webber up to 12th with 1m 25.205s, which eased David Coulthard’s Red Bull down a place after the Scot lapped in 1m 25.575s.

Scott Speed took his Toro Rosso round in 1m 25.662s to pip Nick Heidfeld (1m 25.701s) and on-form Christijan Albers. The Dutchman posted 1m 25.803s for Midland to put him ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m 25.806s), team mate Tiago Monteiro (1m 26.476s), Nico Rosberg (1m 27.019s), Takuma Sato (1m 28.267s) and double-spinner Yuji Ide (1m 29.330s).

Rosberg shunted his Williams quite heavily, after running off the road on the exit to the Villeneuve corner just before Tosa. The German was unharmed.

With an ambient temperature high between 25 and 26 degrees Celsius and track temperature up to 33, conditions should be perfect for qualifying.