BMW Sauber flies in French GP last practice

BMW Sauber flies in French GP last practice

BMW Sauber set the pace in the Saturday morning practice session for the French Grand Prix, Jacques Villeneuve leading teammate Nick Heidfeld by less than half a tenth of a second at Magny Cours. Villeneuve's best time was 1:17.005 and Jarno ...

BMW Sauber set the pace in the Saturday morning practice session for the French Grand Prix, Jacques Villeneuve leading teammate Nick Heidfeld by less than half a tenth of a second at Magny Cours. Villeneuve's best time was 1:17.005 and Jarno Trulli's Toyota was third fastest, only fractionally behind Heidfeld.

Jacques Villeneuve.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The weather continued to be fine, with a track temperature of around 40 degrees at the start of the session and the air some 10 degrees lower. It was a few minutes before anyone went out onto the track, the MF1s of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers the first to appear. Takuma Sato's Super Aguri followed but all three only did installation laps.

David Coulthard's Red Bull was next and managed to set a flying lap, 1:21.906, and then lowered it to 1:21.027. Teammate Christian Klien was also on track but hadn't set a time. Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso was next out, swiftly followed by Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and Trulli and Jenson Button's Honda.

Liuzzi slotted into second and his teammate Scott Speed went out to join the activity. Ralf took over at the top, 1:19.991, and Trulli posted second, while Button took fourth. Monterio made it six on the time sheet and Liuzzi demoted Button, then Trulli took over from Ralf with a 1:19.626. It was short lived as Speed arrived with a 1:18.608.

Monterio improved to fourth and Nico Rosberg's Williams and Villeneuve took seventh and 10th respectively. Rubens Barrichello slotted his Honda into third and Villeneuve went up to fifth but immediately lost the place to Albers. Kimi Raikkonen was the first McLaren on track and clocked seventh.

He was quickly followed by the second McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa into 10th and Super Aguri's Franck Montagny was 14th. Rosberg moved into fifth while Michael Schumacher's Ferrari arrived in second then took over at the top with a 1:18.515, just under a tenth up on Speed. Michael stayed out and improved to 1:18.214.

Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa posted fourth on his first flyer and Klien, who had been idling near the back, shot up to third. Massa improved to second, just under two tenths off Michael. Meanwhile, the Williams of Mark Webber and the Renault of Fernando Alonso were lurking in the midfield and Button was next to go fastest, 1:17.476.

Alonso improved to seventh and teammate Gaiancarlo Fisichella was one better in sixth, while Heidfeld took 10th. He stayed out for another trip round and improved to eighth. By half way through Sato was the only one not on the time sheet and he appeared shortly afterwards in 22nd. Michael had a problem, flames at the rear of the car, but apparently it was a heat shield and not serious.

Coulthard jumped up to second after being moved almost to the back, four tenths off Button. Michael and Massa were third and fourth while Speed and Klien rounded off the top six. Raikkonen, who had also been shuffled way down the times, took the second place off Coulthard and de la Rosa followed him into third.

Liuzzi improved to fifth but there was a quiet period for a while. The top 10 was perhaps a little unusual at the time, as it included both McLarens and both Ferraris but both Red Bulls and both Toro Rossos as well. Button was currently still fastest while Fisichella was at the other end of the line in 10th.

Sato was a late retiree when the Super Aguri came to a halt in the middle sector with some kind of loss of power. With five minutes to go Trulli hit the top of the times, 1:17.422, but was immediately ousted by Rosberg's 1:17.188. The squabble continued as Trulli retaliated with 1:17.056, while Ralf moved into the top 10 in seventh.

Villeneuve's 1:17.005 took over from Trulli and teammate Heidfeld clocked second, less than half a tenth off. Rosberg and Webber were fourth and fifth, so Williams looked stronger this morning than in Friday's practices. Weird wings or not, BMW also performed well but last minute hot laps can be misleading.

Ferrari didn't run again after Michael's problem, while McLaren and Toyota seemed reasonably on the pace but both Renaults were outside the top 10. That doesn't necessarily mean anything but qualifying looks set to be quite a close battle. Final top eight classification: Villeneuve, Heidfeld, Trulli, Rosberg, Webber, Button, Raikkonen, de la Rosa.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Franck Montagny , Fernando Alonso , Christijan Albers , Felipe Massa , Scott Speed , Nico Rosberg , Christian Klien
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams