Finn Raikkonen, last year's championship runner-up,
underlined the improving competitiveness of McLaren after their
nightmare start to the season in clocking one minute 20.884
seconds, more than eight-tenths of a second quicker than last
year's pole set by Renault's Fernando Alonso.
Six-time champion Schumacher had been quickest in the first
session and spent the majority of the second hour of practice on
top before Raikkonen toppled the German in the final 10 minutes
and finished 0.125 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver.
"The car is not too bad," said Raikkonen, who married
fiancee Jennie Dahlman in the three-week break after the German
Grand Prix. "I'm sure there are still improvements to make but
overall for the first day it was quite good.
"I think the car has the speed in the races as long as we
get everything right. If we get the set-up right we can
challenge for first place."
Schumacher will score a record 12th win of the season if he
is successful in Sunday's race, while victory would be enough to
hand Ferrari a sixth consecutive constructors' championship.
I am happy with the work we achieved and how things are
going in general," said Schumacher. "I feel quite confident for
the rest of the weekend.
"Some of our competitors look quick, but as usual on a
Friday it is hard to assess their performance without knowing
exactly what program they were running."
Ferrari have a 99-point advantage over second place Renault.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who narrowly avoided contact
with the tire barriers in a spin in the first session, was third
fastest behind Raikkonen and Schumacher in the afternoon.
Briton David Coulthard completed a positive day for McLaren
with the fourth best time ahead of Toyota's Olivier Panis.
Briton Jenson Button, who has endured a week of controversy
following the announcement he will switch from BAR to Williams
next season, was only the 10th and eighth quickest in the
"It is always great to get back in the car," Button said.
"We have had a three-week break, which is great, but it is good
to get back in the car and see where we are.
"We always work well together and we had a good atmosphere."
Last year's winner Alonso of Spain also failed to find his
rhythm with 11th and 10th in the two sessions.
Jaguar's Australian Mark Webber was 11th fastest in the
afternoon after failing to set a lap time in the morning, while
Austrian teammate Christian Klien had a difficult day that
included spinning into the gravel trap.
Brazilian Ricardo Zonta could only post the 18th best time
in the afternoon on his return to Formula One with Toyota,
having replaced under-performing compatriot Cristiano Da Matta.
Italian Gianmaria Bruni spun into the gravel after only six
minutes of the second practice, while his Minardi teammate
Zsolt Baumgartner, in his home race, had technical problems in
the first session.