World champion Michael Schumacher continued to dominate proceedings in southern Spain, topping the times at Jerez on a day when Jenson Button suffered his second big crash of the season.

Although he only ran marginally quicker than he had on day one - and over half a second slower than on Wednesday, Schumacher had not trouble at all in seeing off the best the rest could throw at him, with Ricardo Zonta second quickest, but seven-tenths adrift of the Ferrari. Schumacher again worked on development for the final two races of the year - in which he will be fighting to retain his world title for a fourth straight year - focusing on tyre evaluations and set-up choices for longer race-style runs.

Zonta completed 60 laps of the 4.428km Spanish, working on Michelin tyre testing and set-up for both Indianapolis and Suzuka. The morning was spent validating the data that team-mate Cristiano da Matta accrued in Barcelona earlier in the week,before switching to sorting tyre choice for the Japanese GP.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen replaced Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel of the sole Sauber-Petronas at the test, and covered 86 laps as he set about verifying the data collected by his young countryman over the opening two days of running. The Swiss team also re-tested the downforce levels it had found for Indianapolis and worked with Bridgestone on the selection of tyres, both for Indianapolis and, particularly, Suzuka.

Button had only completed 13 laps when he put a wheel on the grass at the exit of the high-speed turn four, making heavy side impact with a wall unprotected by a tyre barrier, and damaging the suspension and the left-hand side of the car. Although most of the damaged parts could have been easily replaced, there had also been some localised damage to the chassis which meant that it had to be returned to the team's UK Operations Centre for repair.

The safety structures in place did the job very well as Button was unhurt in the accident, and able to extricate himself from the car. However, in the contact, he did hit his right knee quite hard and, despite not seeking the attention of the on-site medical facility, decided to return to London to get the opinion of his own doctor as a precautionary measure.

Despite the off, the Briton was still able to record a quicker lap than team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, who joined the test in place of BAR reserve driver Takuma Sato and continued the tyre assessment programme begun by the Japanese driver on Wednesday. Villeneuve will continue to run tomorrow [Friday], but BAR has been forced to call off a test planned for F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim due to the lack of a second chassis.

Leading times (18 September) - Jerez:

Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 19.168s 96 laps*Ricardo Zonta Toyota-Toyota 1m 19.863s 60 lapsHeinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber-Petronas 1m 19.990s 86 laps*Jenson Button BAR-Honda 1m 20.401s 13 laps*Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 1m 20.935s 53 laps*

[* denotes Bridgestone tyres; all others on Michelin]

Weather / track conditions: sunny and hot

 

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