Williams-BMW driver Antonio Pizzonia set the pace during Thursday’s test session at Monza, but Michael Schumacher had a scare when a suspected tyre failure caused his Ferrari to crash heavily.

Williams-BMW driver Antonio Pizzonia set the pace during Thursday’s test session at Monza, but Michael Schumacher had a scare when a suspected tyre failure caused his Ferrari to crash heavily.


Pizzonia recorded a best lap of 1:20,010s, just a fraction ahead of Schumacher's best lap of 1:20,187m recorded on Wednesday. McLaren-Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen set the second best time, seven-tenths of a second slower than the Brazilian. Juan-Pablo Montoya was ninth in the second Williams-BMW, followed by David Coulthard in the second McLaren-Mercedes.


Rubens Barrichello and Schumacher were third and seventh fastest respectively as the Ferrari duo continued work on Bridgestone tyre development and honing the F2004 to the Italian circuit. However, Schumacher's day was cut short by his crash.


The German, completing an endurance run, crashed at the end of the main straightaway, just before the Monza circuit's parabolic curve, in a portion of the track where cars reach their highest speeds.


Medics attended to Schumacher after he climbed out of the car, but he did not go to the track hospital for a precautionary exam, Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni said: "He's fine. He's leaving the track now like normal because the session is finished”.


BAR Honda had three drivers in action - Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato. The three drivers proved were matched with Davidson fourth fastest ahead of Button and Sato.


Fernando Alonso notched up 116 laps in his Renault and recorded the eighth best time. Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, only completed three laps in the afternoon session after a minor off after lunch. Trulli was 13th fastest but did manage to run a Monza-specification engine to its full mileage in the morning session.


“We lost half a day with Jarno’s car and while this means we have not completed as much running as we would have liked, it has not significantly hampered our work," said Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk. "Fernando completed an impressive number of laps and overall we progressed well with the tyre choice for next weekend. The car has been both reliable and competitive, which we hope to maintain on our final day tomorrow.”


Giancarlo Fisichella remained the sole runner at Sauber Petronas. The team confirmed that Formula 3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi would test with the team, raising speculation that the Italian would drive alongside Felipe Massa in the squad next season. Fisichella completed no fewer than 96 laps.


"We spent the day with working on our low downforce level for the Italian Grand Prix and were also able to make a decision on brakes and Bridgestone tyre specification for the race," said Sauber race engineer Giampaolo Dall'Ara. "Thanks to good weather and track conditions Giancarlo was able to run a lot of laps which helped us to proceed with our programme as scheduled. Tomorrow Felipe will take over to get a solid feeling of what Bridgestone tyres, brakes and car set-up we will have for Monza, and will furthermore start to evaluate tyres for the Chinese Grand Prix."


Christian Klien proved the fastest of the two Jaguar drivers. The Austrian set the 12th best time in his R5, with Australian’s Mark Webber 14th behind Jarno Trulli.


Olivier Panis continued his test programme with Toyota, taking the 15th best time ahead of Ricardo Zonta who took over driving duties today from Ryan Briscoe. Timo Glock took over from Giorgio Pantano at Jordan Ford and was 17th best ahead of Minardi racers Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni.