Raikkonen quickest in Hungarian practice

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Several of Michael Schumacher's rivals have predicted that the Hungarian Grand Prix will be the closest race of the season.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Budapest, Hungary:

Several of Michael Schumacher's rivals have predicted that the Hungarian Grand Prix will be the closest race of the season. Heading into the weekend, McLaren, Williams, BAR and Renault are all expected to be able to challenge Ferrari for victory. Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams BMW was third in the afternoon session with a time of 1 minute 21.185 seconds. Nose design Schumacher's only loss this year came in Monaco, where he was leading but knocked out in a freak crash with Montoya as the two drivers were running behind the safety car. Renault's Jarno Trulli went on to win. Williams however, will be encouraged by the pace of their car, which features a new nose design in a bid to improve its aerodynamics downforce. The team have abandoned their distinctive "walrus" nose in favour of a more conventional design. Takuma Sato of BAR took a commendable sixth place with a time of 1 minute 21.364 seconds. Closest rival Meanwhile, Olivier Panis's new Toyota had an unscheduled trip into the gravel, before he took fifth place with a time of 1 minute 21.52 seconds. Briton David Coulthard completed a positive day for McLaren with the fourth best time ahead of Panis. But Kimi Raikkonen, who has been Schumacher's closest rival for the last two races, looked quick from the outset. He was on course to beat Schumacher's fastest time in the first session on Friday morning until he was held up by a Minardi. And he followed that up with an impressive pace in the afternoon in a car that appeared, as expected, to be well suited to the tight and twisty Hungaroring track. In the last ten minutes of the session Raikkonen clocked a lap of one minute 20.884 seconds to beat Schumacher's time by 0.125 seconds. Capable of a win Raikkonen finished second to Schumacher two races ago in Britain. And in the latest race three weeks ago in the German Grand Prix, he was running in second place when his rear wing flew off on the 13th lap. Since McLaren introduced a new car in early July at the French Grand Prix, Raikkonen looks capable of winning again. It could be this weekend. However, Schumacher was particularly impressive in his ability to guide the Ferrari to a series of consistently fast laps, and that may be ominous for hopes of a competitive race on Sunday. His teammate Rubens Barrichello showed a similar ability, although he was not able to match Schumacher's pace. After this race, there are five to go. Schumacher can't win his seventh season title this weekend, but it could come as early as the Belgian Grand Prix in two weeks. He leads the standings with 110 points followed by teammate Rubens Barrichello (74), BAR-Honda's Jenson Button (61) and Jarno Trulli of Renault (46). (AP)

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