Free practice 3: Schuey ups the pace

Michael Schumacher fired a comprehensive warning shot to the opposition by completely dominating the third session of free practice at Spa. The Ferrari number one was almost a second quicker than team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who in turn was well ahead of the McLaren pair in third and fourth

Free practice 3: Schuey ups the pace

In the final minute of the session Schumacher bettered his own previous best to become the only driver to break the 1m45s barrier. His superb effort was 1m44.951s and the world champion looks like he'll take some beating in qualifying this afternoon (Saturday).

Rubens Barrichello also made a late improvement, but the Hungarian GP winner's best efforts still left him 0.888s shy of the world champion.

Mika Salo was the first driver to set a flying lap and the Finn set the tone for the remainder of the 45-minute session by instantly shaving over half a second off his personal best from Friday.

Salo's place at the top was short lived as Ralf Schumacher dropped his Williams into the 1m47s for the first time this weekend. Barrichello responded by ducking below the best time from Friday with his first effort, but David Coulthard underlined how much of a threat McLaren is going to be this weekend by raising the bar to a 1m46.593s.

The Scot's new marque didn't last long however, and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the fastest man in Friday free practice, once again showed his class by lapping two tenths quicker than his team-mate.

There was less than 20 minutes of the session remaining when Michael Schumacher first took to the track, but it was an effort worth waiting for. The champion-elect simply obliterated Raikkonen's best time, setting new records in each of the sectors to record a stunning time of 1m45.005s.

The top six had a symmetrical look to it, with Ferraris first and second, McLarens third and fourth and Williams fifth and sixth (Ralf ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya). Allan McNish did a good job to end up in seventh ahead of Olivier Panis, Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella.

Mark Webber had another disappointing session, with his Minardi grinding to a halt at Stavelot. The Australian had completed just two flying laps at the time and unsurprising propped up the times. Minardi team-mate Anthony Davidson also coasted to a halt, but fortunately for the Brit there was only a couple of minutes left of the session, so although he received outside assistance when he was pushed down the pitlane by the marshals, the fact that he was not allowed to take part in the rest of the session didn't matter too much. Both drivers were well inside the 107 percent limit despite Schumacher's searing pace.

Felipe Massa locked a brake on the way into Malmedy. This forced the Brazilian to briefly take to grass, but the Sauber appeared to be undamaged in the incident. Eddie Irvine also took to the gravel when he ran wide and like Massa he rejoined seemingly undamaged. Also like Massa he was well off the pace - Irvine 15th, Massa 14th.

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