Raikkonen sees red in final practice 17 Mar 2007
Kimi Raikkonen stamped his authority on the final practice session in Melbourne this morning, lapping his Ferrari in 1m 20.064s. But in his wake there was a pitch battle for the runner-up slot between Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella, McLarens Lewis Hamilton, Super Aguris Anthony Davidson and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who were mere tenths apart.
Albert Park was dry and sunny this morning, but literally as the final practice session got underway at 11am there was a moment of consternation in the pit lane as the skies opened up again. Fortunately it was the briefest of showers, and the track remained dry.
As Raikkonen consistently set the pace, Fisichella pushed his Renault into second place with 1m 26.454s, which Hamilton just failed to match with 1m 26.467s. Davidson was right behind the McLaren, lapping his Super Aguri in 1m 26.491s to pip Massa, the Brazilian posting 1m 26.547s. Other fast runners were Nick Heidfeld with 1m 26.753s for BMW Sauber, Fernando Alonso on 1m 26.786s for McLaren, and Heikki Kovalainen, who had a better day in the second Renault en route to 1m 26.937s.
Interestingly, Hamilton still appeared to have the upper hand on his Spanish team mate, though the world champions best lap was spoiled when he ran briefly off road in the final sector.
Confirming Davidsons form, Takuma Sato was ninth for Super Aguri with 1m 27.266s ahead of Alex Wurzs Williams (1m 27.322s), Mark Webbers Red Bull (1m 27.390s), Robert Kubicas BMW Sauber (1m 27.753s, and the Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli (1m 27.887s and 1m 27.897s respectively).
Hondas problems continued, with Rubens Barrichello 15th on 1m 28.039s and Jenson Button 17th on 1m 28.119s, while Nico Rosberg was 16th for Williams, his FW29 rolling to a halt in Turn 4 after he had lapped the track in 1m 28.061s.
David Coulthard had a minor moment running wide on the exit to Turn One, and failed to improve on 1m 28.208s in his Red Bull, which left him just ahead of the sibling Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi (1m 28.332s) and Scott Speed (1m 28.485s). Once again Adrian Sutil was the closest Spyker, chasing the Toro Rossos with 1m 28.678s. Team mate Christijan Albers was 22nd with 1m 30.547s after initial delays.
The scene is thus set for the first qualifying session of the year, with Ferrari still the favourite, but McLaren and Renault evenly matched. It remains to be seen who else can sustain their morning positions once race fuel loads have been added.