Davidson on tail of pacesetter Button

Michael Schumacher found himself kept back to third place by Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button during yesterday's practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, in which the German needs only two points over team-mate Rubens Barrichello to clinch his seventh title. Button said he was particularly pleased with the first stage of his own quest to score his first F1 triumph.

Michael Schumacher found himself kept back to third place by Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button during yesterday's practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, in which the German needs only two points over team-mate Rubens Barrichello to clinch his seventh title. Button said he was particularly pleased with the first stage of his own quest to score his first F1 triumph.

"So far, so good. We started out this morning with low grip, but we've found a way round that and things are going well."

It was the man in fourth place, however, who attracted the attention. Anthony Davidson again performed strongly for BAR-Honda, chasing Button and running marginally faster than team-mate Takuma Sato.

The British driver's management had talks with team owner Peter Sauber about a race seat for 2005.

But he could take Button's ride with BAR if the Contract Recognition Board, which is due to meet early in September, rules in Williams' favour in their tug-of-war over the 24-year-old Englishman.

However, Davidson faces strong opposition for the Sauber seat from Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, who could wrap up the Formula 3000 championship this weekend after dominating the season.

The former karting world champion also met with Sauber yesterday and is believed to have had a seat fitting in readiness for a test drive after the Italian Grand Prix on 12 September. Liuzzi is the more likely to get the drive vacated by Giancarlo Fisichella, who is moving to Renault, given the interest that Ferrari president Jean Todt has taken in his impressive progress this season.

Another promising rookie, Ryan Briscoe, was taken to hospital after crashing his Toyota at the Eau Rouge corner because of a suspected rear tyre failure. The Australian was unharmed in the incident.

Ralf Schumacher, injured in a crash at the US Grand Prix in June, could rejoin the circus in Monza. Williams' technical director Sam Michael confirmed that, pending a final medical check, the German could test for three days at the Italian track prior to participating in the race. Practice times, Digest, page 79

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