Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello carried on where they left off in qualifying by ending warm-up for the Japanese Grand Prix in first and second places. But the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard were close behind and may yet have a say in the outcome of the race
Schumacher went straight to the head of the times with his first flying lap and thereafter whittled his time down to a 1m36.249s. There was one anxious moment for the world champion when he came up behind a slow-moving Juan Pablo Montoya going into Casino Triangle.
Schumacher dived to the inside but the Williams started to moved over and contact was only avoided when the Colombian finally spotted the Ferrari and intentionally ran wide. Montoya received his just desserts when Alex Yoong cut him up in a similar fashion just a couple of laps later.
The Williams driver had hit trouble early on in the 30-minute session when the rear bodywork of his FW24 worked itself loose. The Colombian lost some time in the pits while the engine cover was replaced and was way back in 15th in the times at the close.
It was a scrappy session for Williams, which was capped by Ralf Schumacher spinning at the Degner Curve after taking too much kerb and losing the rear end. His car was undamaged but once again both BMW cars were behind the Mercedes-powered McLarens.
One of the first drivers to take to the track at the start of the session was Toyota's Allan McNish and it looks certain the Scot will take part in the race. Considering the size of his qualifying shunt he did a great job to wind up 13th fastest.
It was a relatively quiet session, although Olivier Panis ran wide and took to the grass through the S Curves but rejoined with out damage, and Giancarlo Fisichella was not so fortunate when he lost the rear of his Jordan at Turn 2 and became beached in the gravel.
Jarno Trulli was sixth fastest for Renault, just ahead of the ragged Felipe Massa. Jenson Button was 14th, Eddie Irvine 16th.
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