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Schumacher heads final practice 13 May 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, 12 May 2006

After a tentative start to the session, lap times plummeted in the final hour of practice in Spain this morning. Michael Schumacher ended it fastest after a lap of 1m 15.658s for Ferrari, which deprived Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella of the honour after the Italian had posted 1m 15.707s. The chances of Fisichella’s team mate Fernando Alonso bettering his eighth best 1m 16.595s ended on his final lap when he had a bit of wobble out at the back of the circuit.

In between them came Nick Heidfeld who jumped up to third on 1m 16.057s for BMW Sauber, the suddenly improved Red Bulls of Christian Klien and David Coulthard on 1m 16.277s and 1m 16.352s respectively, Rubens Barrichello’s Honda on 1m 16.399s and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari on 1m 16.410s. All of these comfortably eclipsed Anthony Davidson’s best time from Friday afternoon of 1m 16.533s.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen may still not have shown their full hand for McLaren, with only the ninth and 10th best times of 1m 16.660s and 1m 16.705s, while Honda’s Jenson Button did not venture out again after setting a time of 1m 16.999s which was fastest for a while until he got demoted by Massa.

Scott Speed took his Toro Rosso round in 1m 17.004s for 12th fastest, split from team mate Tonio Liuzzi on 1m 17.240s by a late-improving Ralf Schumacher who posted 1m 17.199s for Toyota. Then came the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber on 1m 17.645s and 1m 17.743s respectively, and Jacques Villenueve. The former champion provided the only incident of the session when a quick lap at the end was terminated by a dusty trip across a gravel bed in his BMW Sauber. He fell back on a previous best time of 1m 17.924s.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was a subdued 18th on 1m 18.411s, ahead of Midland’s Tiago Montiero (1m 18.747s), Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato (a late improvement to 1m 18.857s) and their respective team mates Christijan Albers (1m 19.587s) and Franck Montagny (1m 20.031s).

The indications are thus that there is precious little to choose between Bridgestone and Michelin, which should mean another fascinating qualifying session this afternoon.