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Schumacher sets Saturday practice pace 30 Sep 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 29 September 2006

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher emerged fastest from a dramatic final practice session this morning in Shanghai, with title rival Fernando Alonso right in his wheeltracks in the Renault.

The session began with a wet track and initially Ferrari’s Felipe Massa held sway until David Coulthard and Robert Doornbos took over for Red Bull. But when the track began to dry out, as the hour-long session drew to a close, times came like machine gun fire.

Schumacher finished his runs with 1m 40.193s, but Alonso banged in a 1m 40.365s right at the end to depose Jenson Button, who had posted 1m 40.590s for Honda, after earlier aborting a run that would at that time have put him fastest.

Vitantonio Liuzzi was the final star, pushing his Toro Rosso to 1m 40.795s in the dying seconds to upstage team mate Scott Speed. The American recorded 1m 41.150s to head Mark Webber in the Williams (1m 41.287s), Spyker MF1's Christijan Albers (1m 41.463s), Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 41.691s), Pedro de la Rosa in the McLaren (1m 41.823s) and Coulthard (1m 41.836s).

Nico Rosberg was 11th for Williams with 1m 42.588s, chased by Tiago Monteiro (1m 42.612s) in the second Spyker MF1. Nick Heidfeld was 13th for BMW Sauber with 1m 43.216s, and then came Honda’s Rubens Barrichello (1m 43.448s), Massa (1m 43.500s), Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato (1m 43.722s), who had earlier run as high as second to Schumacher. Jarno Trulli had the leading Toyota in 17th place with 1m 44.027s, while team mate Ralf Schumacher took 19th on 1m 46.023s. Between them, Doornbos relied on his earlier time of 1m 45.454s.

Behind Schumacher Jnr, Sakon Yamamoto lapped in 1m 46.850s before spinning and beaching his Super Aguri in Turn 8. He was not alone. Doornbos went off in Turn 2, Barrichello in Turn 1, Massa in Turn 16 and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen, twice, in Turn 7. Like Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber, the Finn recorded no time.

Quite what these times mean will only become apparent this afternoon in qualifying, but it bodes well for the championship that Schumacher and Alonso remain inseparable.