De la Rosa Stays on Top at Imola

McLaren were given a boost in Friday afternoon's practice for the San Marino Grand Prix when Pedro de la Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen finished first and third fastest in the second session

De la Rosa Stays on Top at Imola

De la Rosa, who raced for the team in Bahrain but returned to his usual third driver role this weekend, beat his session-leading lap in the first session with a time of 1:20.484 in the second to end the day on top of the pile.

But Jenson Button signalled his and BAR-Honda's intent to return to the sharp end of Formula One this weekend when he finished second fastest, albeit 0.568 seconds behind the lead McLaren.

Button, whose team have failed to finish a race so far this season, was confident of improved pace heading into this weekend's event after a strong performance in testing in the last two weeks.

The British driver, whose car has an improved engine and aerodynamics, finished with a time of 1:21.052, set early in the session, to split the McLaren drivers and leave Kimi Raikkonen, of Finland, third.

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta finished fourth fastest with Spaniard Fernando Alonso, the World Championship leader, fifth fastest for Renault despite completing just 10 laps.

World Champion Michael Schumacher finished right behind in sixth place with his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello seventh as the Italian team continued their fightback from a disappointing start to the year.

Alex Wurz, who is substituting for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya this weekend, put his McLaren in eighth place and Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato completed the top ten for Renault and BAR respectively.

With half the session gone Button was on the top of the times with a lap of 1:21.052, almost a second ahead of second-placed Barrichello and 0.008 seconds faster than de la Rosa's fastest run in the morning session.

Jordan test driver Robert Doornbos went off at Aqua Minerale and spun across the gravel trap before coming to rest against the barriers, but he recovered and returned to the pits with only damage to his car's front wing.

The top runners remained the same with 20 minutes to go and while Fisichella, who chose not to run in the first session, sat in third his teammate Fernando Alonso, who also set no laps in the first run, finally came out of the garage.

Narain Karthikeyan was the second Jordan to leave the circuit when he went wide at the Villeneuve corner, Red Bull Racing driver Christian Klien missed his braking point at the Traguado chicane and Ralf Schumacher spun at the Variante Alta.

Alonso moved into the top ten with a solid lap while, at the front, Raikkonen deposed Barrichello from second but was still more than half a second shy of Button's best time but de la Rosa eventually toppled the Briton.

Pos  Driver        Team                   Time                  Laps
 1.  de la Rosa    McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  1:20.484               31
 2.  Button        BAR-Honda         (M)  1:21.052  +    0.568   28
 3.  Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  1:21.704  +    1.220   16
 4.  Zonta         Toyota            (M)  1:21.889  +    1.405   35
 5.  Alonso        Renault           (M)  1:21.899  +    1.415   10
 6.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  1:22.025  +    1.541   24
 7.  Barrichello   Ferrari           (B)  1:22.048  +    1.564   22
 8.  Wurz          McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  1:22.174  +    1.690   17
 9.  Fisichella    Renault           (M)  1:22.211  +    1.727   23
10.  Sato          BAR-Honda         (M)  1:22.335  +    1.851   27
11.  Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:22.791  +    2.307   23
12.  Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:22.955  +    2.471   22
13.  Trulli        Toyota            (M)  1:23.343  +    2.859   20
14.  Heidfeld      Williams-BMW      (M)  1:23.458  +    2.974   16
15.  R.Schumacher  Toyota            (M)  1:23.466  +    2.982   21
16.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:23.815  +    3.331   20
17.  Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:23.842  +    3.358   16
18.  Webber        Williams-BMW      (M)  1:23.964  +    3.480   14
19.  Klien         Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:24.320  +    3.836   38
20.  Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:24.573  +    4.089   21
21.  Liuzzi        Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:24.626  +    4.142   29
22.  Doornbos      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:25.172  +    4.688   15
23.  Friesacher    Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  1:26.620  +    6.136   14
24.  Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  No Time                  

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