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Schumacher fastest in final practice

india Updated: Oct 07, 2006 11:58 IST

With a possible Formula One title on the line, Michael Schumacher posted the fasted time in Saturday's final practice before qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, easily outpacing reigning world champion Fernando Alonso.

Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One champion, finished a lap in 1 minute, 30.653 seconds in his Ferrari, with a huge 1.2-second gap over the next fastest, his brother Ralf in a Toyota in a time of 1:31.863.

Alonso followed in fifth at 1:32.555.

Schumacher, who will retire after this season, could wrap up his eighth world title if he wins Sunday and Alonso drops out or finishes scoreless.

Schumacher's time also bettered the previous best time for a pole position of 1:31.317 he set in 2002, the year of Ferrari's domination when it won 15 of 17 races.

In contrast to Friday's early showers, the practice run took place in brilliant sunshine.

Jenson Button was third in a Honda in 1:32.310, ahead of Alonso's Renault teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella with a time of 1:32.527. Schumacher's victory in Shanghai last weekend tied him with Alonso atop the driver's standings on 116 points, after trailing by 25 points with seven races to go.

The victory was the 91st of the German's career and his fifth in the last seven races.

Alonso started the season by winning six of the first nine races, the last coming in June at the Canadian Grand Prix. Schumacher has clinched the F1 title twice in Japan - in 2000 and 2003 - beating McLaren's Mika Hakkinen once and Mclaren's Kimi Raikkonen once. Overall, Schumacher has won at Suzuka six times. Alonso finished third here last year and Schumacher was fifth behind Raikkonen.

Alonso's Renault team is a point ahead of Schumacher's Ferrari outfit in the constructors' championship at 179-178. The last race of the season is Oct. 22 in Brazil.

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