Practice 1: Schumacher on top at Monza

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher looked in imperious form in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, topping the time sheets with a lap of 1m22.869, eight-tenths of a second ahead of last year's winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams

Practice 1: Schumacher on top at Monza

Schumacher was consistently the fastest driver on the track throughout the session, gently working his time down to a 1m22.869s - almost eight tenths faster than the opposition. His Ferrari colleague Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, had a miserable time and was stranded in the pits with a suspected brake problem.

Second quickest man Montoya had a promising session, and said he was very happy with the handling of his BMW-powered Williams FW24. "The general balance is very positive," he told the team. His time of 1m23.668s was backed up by team-mate Ralf Schumacher, who was third quickest on 1m24.115s.

Jaguar continued its impressive pace from last week's test sessions, with Pedro de la Rosa ending the session fourth on 1m24.181s, and Eddie Irvine sixth - although the Ulsterman was only just pipped by Renault's Jarno Trulli. Irvine suffered two trips through the gravel traps during the session, to prove how hard was trying.

De la Rosa said: "It's going pretty well here, just like it did in testing. We need to get the maximum for tomorrow [qualifying] and it's looking good. The low downforce set-up helps our car, and the new front suspension is also better. The car is more competitive, full stop."

Sauber's Felipe Massa, who might not even be racing in F1 next year, was seventh fastest. The Brazilian had to rely on his sublime car control on his final flyer, however, when he dropped a rear wheel into the gravel on the exit of the second Lesmo.

McLaren duo David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen were only eighth and ninth respectively. Coulthard opted for a trip into the gravel early on, rather than test the controversial speed bumps at the second chicane when he tripped over the BAR of Olivier Panis under braking. Panis was 10th fastest.

Britons Jenson Button (Renault) and Allan McNish (Toyota) were 11th and 17th respectively.

Alex Yoong scored a small victory on his return to Minardi, outpacing team-mate Mark Webber thanks to a late flyer which was almost three-tenths faster. It is likely, however, that the Malaysian is concentrating on his qualifying pace and was probably running less fuel.

The second practice session kicks off at 1200 BST.

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