Free practice 4: No stopping Schuey

Michael Schumacher was one of only a handful of drivers not to improve his time in the final session of free practice at Suzuka, but such was the German's advantage his earlier time remained enough to keep him at the head of the times. Ralf Schumacher came within a few tenths of beating his brother, but the others will clearly have their work cut out to deny the Ferrari star pole position

Free practice 4: No stopping Schuey

In contrast to the first session, there was plenty of track action from the off. However, improvements were few and far between to begin with, although Allan McNish did move up from 18th to 16th.

Pedro de la Rosa vaulted from 15th to 10th with just over 15 minutes gone, while Alex Yoong gave himself plenty of breathing space in his bid to make the cut by taking over a second off his best time.

Takuma Sato made a small gain to move ahead of Nick Heidfeld into 12th, but that became 13th when Olivier Panis leapt slotted into the top 10 with his first 1m35s lap of the weekend. The Frenchman's bad luck reared its ugly head shortly after and his BAR ground to a halt just after the Crossover, forcing him out of the remainder of the session.

The first notable change at the head of the field came when Juan Pablo Montoya dropped into the 1m33s to claim second with a lap that contained the fastest middle sector of the weekend so far. His position didn't last long though, and in quick succession Kimi Raikkonen and Ralf moved ahead of the Williams driver.

A spate of late improvements shuffled the order at the tail of the top 10, but the world champion was unthreatened at the front. David Coulthard was fifth, Rubens Barrichello also failed to improve and took sixth, while Eddie Irvine headed the cashing pack in seventh.

The Ulsterman toured to a halt in the final minute of the session as did Mark Webber's Minardi, but neither driver lost a place as a result of their misfortune.

Sato cheered the passionate locals crowd with a good run to eighth, ahead of Jenson Button in ninth and Felipe Massa 10th.

McNish's final GP for Toyota is not going as the Scot would have liked and he was 3.6s off the pace in a lowly 19th.

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