Schumacher still on top

Michael Schumacher led the way on Saturday morning in Melbourne but the gap between the Ferrari star and his chasers has closed. Several teams reported that the track conditions were rather different than on Friday: BAR, in particular, was much further down the order than expected. The changes seemed to benefit Toyota as Olivier Panis ended the morning session in sixth place, one of eight drivers who were within a second of Michael Schumacher.

Michael's nearest challenger at the end of the session was Juan Pablo Montoya, who was just a tenth slower than the six-times World Champion. Ralf Schumacher was four-tenths slower than his BMW Williams team mate, while Rubens Barrichello was a few hundredths behind Ralf. There was a gap of three-tenths back to the Renault of Fernando Alonso with Panis and Jarno Trulli within a tenth. Staying in the hunt was local hero Mark Webber in his Jaguar, eighth fastest in the session.

The McLaren team continued to disappoint with Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard only ninth and 10th fastest, a second behind Michael Schumacher's best.

Jenson Button's BAR was 11th. There was a disappointing performance too from Sauber with Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella in 14th and 15th.

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