Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella led the way in the final practice session for the French Grand Prix with a best time of 1:14.466. Teammate Fernando Alonso had been fastest in the first session but the earlier times were much slower as the track was...
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella led the way in the final practice session for the French Grand Prix with a best time of 1:14.466. Teammate Fernando Alonso had been fastest in the first session but the earlier times were much slower as the track was wet from overnight rain. Toyota's Ralf Schumacher was second fastest in the last session and the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen was third.
A cool, wet track greeted the drivers on Saturday morning. The Minardis were first to come out, Patrick Friesacher and Christijan Albers shortly followed by Fisichella and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli. McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya and Raikkonen also appeared, along with the second Renault of Alonso.
Jordan's Tiago Monteiro was next to venture out, followed by Ralf and the BAR duo of Takuma Sato and Jenson Button. Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan also came out for an installation lap but after 10 minutes of sedate pottering there were still no times on the board.
The Williams of Nick Hiedfeld was next to join and he was the first to clock a time, a less than spectacular 1:30.935. He lowered it by a few tenths on his next lap and Fisichella suddenly woke up and posted 1:26.651 to take over. Renault teammate Fernando Alonso arrived in second, a couple of tenths down.
Raikkonen took over with a 1:26.483 but the times were well off the efforts in yesterday's practices. Alonso clocked 1:25.934 and Mark Webber arrived in fourth, one ahead of Williams teammate Heidfeld, then lost the place to Button. Heidfeld improved ahead of Webber and Albers made it seven on the time sheet after half an hour.
David Coulthard put his Red Bull fourth and Webber went back in front of Heidfeld, then Friesacher joined one ahead of teammate Albers in eighth. Fisichella removed Alonso from the top with a 1:24.922 so Fernando promptly clocked 1:23.939 in reply, and that was the end of a rather quiet 45 minutes. Only nine drivers set a time.
The track temperature was not much better for the second session, still around 20 degrees, but Raikkonen was quickly out to clock 1:16.743. He dropped it to 1:16.251 over the next couple of laps and Sato followed into second. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve took the position off him but he was in turn demoted by Montoya and Button.
Coulthard was next to take the second slot but everyone was two seconds or more off Raikkonen's best time. Montoya ousted Coulthard and closed the gap to his teammate to 1.5 and the second Sauber of Felipe Massa made seventh. Villeneuve improved to third and Webber started with eighth, one ahead of Karthikeyan.
Red Bull's Christian Klien put in his first appearance with 10th, then climbed to seventh, and the two Minardis were the tail enders. Villeneuve moved up to second but was immediately demoted by Montoya, the gap to Raikkonen down to seven tenths. Coulthard took third and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari made its debut in fourth.
The second scarlet car of Rubens Barrichello took the position from Michael and Massa demoted him further by improving to fifth. Alonso arrived in second, six tenths off Raikkonen, and Klien took over the fifth spot. Barrichello climbed to third and Jarno Trulli put his Toyota seventh, while Alonso closed the gap to Raikkonen to two tenths.
Trulli improved to fifth and Fisichella posted 10th, then jumped up to third. Raikkonen set fastest sectors across the board on his way to 1:15.483, to leave Alonso nearly a second adrift. Kimi followed it up with another scorcher, faster again in sectors one and two but he backed off it in the final stint.
Trulli moved up to third and teammate Ralf took seventh, then improved to fourth. Further down the times the Red Bulls were at the edge of the top ten, while the BARs, Saubers and Williams squabbled in the midfield. Montoya outdid Raikkonen to post 1:15.223 for the top, two and a half tenths up on his teammate.
Button improved to ninth and Michael to fifth, followed by Fisichella into sixth after being shuffled down the times. Giancarlo then moved up to third and Barrichello took over at the top with a 1:15.218, just five thousandths up on Montoya.
Raikkonen answered Barrichello and clocked 1:14.649 but was immediately eclipsed by Ralf's 1:14.603, with Alonso almost simultaneously arriving in third, a couple of tenths off. Villeneuve and Massa improved in tandem to eighth and ninth, while the BARs also moved into the top ten.
Fisichella rocketed to the top with a 1:14.466 and there were some minor improvements down the field but that was the end of the session. McLaren and Renault were again on the pace but with the difficult conditions this morning it's a bit hard to tell with the rest.
From looking at the times, Toyota and BAR appear improved but overall they were not quite on the pace of the McLarens and Renaults, Ferrari being much the same. However, you only need one good lap in qualifying. Final top eight classification: Fisichella, R. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Alonso, M. Schumacher, Sato, Barrichello, Montoya.