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F1 NEWS 

Practice 4: Michael again

Michael Schumacher ended up quickest in all four free practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix. But with just 0.2s covering the top five after the final 45 minutes, he may well be concerned about this afternoon's qualifying session - which promises to be a cracker.

In what was by far the most exciting free practice session of the year - the outcome of which was uncertain until the chequered flag - Schumacher's best lap of 1m14.014s late on was the fastest ever around Monaco. It was in response to a time set by Jarno Trulli in the Renault halfway through the session.

Schumacher's late dash was just 0.002s quicker than Trulli, an acknowledged Monaco specialist, had managed. To add to the drama, Takuma Sato ramped up his BAR-Honda for a shot at the top slot, but the Japanese driver missed out by just 0.006s.

Fernando Alonso, quickest early-on until team-mate Trulli put in his stunning time, also attempted to beat Schumacher's time with four minutes to go, but lost out through the swimming pool section and had to settle for fourth place, just over a tenth off the pace.

Juan Pablo Montoya recovered from thumping the barrier at La Rascasse, which removed the front wing on his WilliamsF1 FW26, to finish the session fifth ahead of Jenson Button, who never really featured in sixth.

David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen both had periods near the top of the times but the McLaren drivers ended the session seventh and ninth respectively, split by the WilliamsF1 BMW of Ralf Schumacher. Having been close to his Ferrari team-mate in the morning's first session, Rubens Barrichello was more than a second away from the pace to end free practice tenth.

Sauber driver Giancarlo Fisichella looked set for a place well inside the top ten. He set the fastest first split time of all at the time of his best lap, which was ultimately ruined when the Italian arrived at the swimming pool section to find chicane posts all over the track.

Cristiano da Matta was top Toyota driver in 12th, ahead of Christian Klien (Jaguar) and Felipe Massa (Sauber). Nick Heidfeld moved back ahead of Jordan team-mate Giorgio Pantano, the pair split by Olivier Panis in the second Toyota.

Mark Webber suffered more engine problems with his Jaguar, and the Australian is now resigned to an engine change and starting from the back tomorrow. While Zsolt Baumgartner was the only Minardi driver to make it out in the second session after both the team's drivers crashed in the first session.

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