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Schumacher edges Alonso in Brazil practice

October 21, 2006 08:54 IST

Michael Schumacher completed the last Friday practice session of his Formula One career by lapping quicker than Renault title rival Fernando Alonso at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Schumacher, retiring after Sunday's race at the Interlagos circuit, was sixth fastest with a lap of one minute 13.713 seconds in the afternoon session despite a spin off on to the grass.

Alonso, who has a 10-point lead in the championship and need only finish eighth to seal his second successive title, was 10th on the timesheets after setting no time in the morning.

The 25-year-old Spaniard had a precautionary engine change before the start of the day's opening session but escaped a 10 place penalty on the starting grid because he had not yet used the one originally in his car.

Schumacher also sat out the first hour, with McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen fastest in front of largely empty stands on an overcast day, to save his engine for Saturday's qualifying and the race.

The 37-year-old can win a record eighth championship only if he takes his 92nd career victory on Sunday and Alonso fails to score. Both have won seven races this year.

"The grip levels were very low today and the track was getting better and better as the session went on," said Alonso.

"That means it's difficult to draw too many conclusions about the set-up or the performance of the car.

"What counts today is the basic feeling and it was good, with no problems at all in either session."


Austrian Alexander Wurz, the Williams test driver, was quickest overall in one minute 12.547 seconds. Briton Anthony Davidson was second for Honda, as he had been in the morning, 0.106 seconds behind.

German teenager Sebastian Vettel, confirmed on Thursday as BMW Sauber's reserve driver for 2007, ended the day third fastest.

The rear wing on his car, and the other two BMWs, declared 'Thanks Michael' in tribute to Schumacher.

"The most successful driver of all time is retiring, he did a lot for the sport and because of him, especially in Germany, F1 is very popular," said team boss Mario Theissen.

Schumacher, with his wife Corinna joining him at the circuit, thanked them for the gesture and looked forward to the weekend ahead.

"We are happy with the work we have done today," said the German. "Our aim is clearly to try and win the constructors' championship and that will require a one-two finish."

Renault are nine points ahead of Ferrari.

Raikkonen, Schumacher's successor at Ferrari next season, set the pace of 1.13.764 in the first session.

The Finn has been runner-up at Interlagos for the past three years and is chasing his Mercedes-powered team's first win of the season.

"We made some progress on our set-up work and tyre evaluation," he said. "We still have a little work to do tomorrow but everything looks fine so far."

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