Free Practice 1: Schuey fastest, Nick quick

This morning's first practice session for the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours had Michael Schumacher stamped all over it as the chequered flag was waved, the German posting a time 0.2s clear of Mika Hakkinen in his McLaren-Mercedes. 40 minutes into the session, however, and Schumacher had still to make it onto the track

Free Practice 1: Schuey fastest, Nick quick

It was a slow start to the weekend's proceedings. With two thirds of the first practice session gone, only four drivers had set flying laps. The 14 others that had ventured out completed one lap and returned directly to the pits.

Until the halfway point, the time sheets were topped by local boys Prost-Peugeot. Nick Heidfeld was fastest with a lap of 1m18.125s, followed by Jean Alesi 0.5s behind. With 25 minutes to go, Schumacher Sr exited the pits after briefly stalling the number three Ferrari as he exited the garage. That was to be the only mistake of an otherwise faultless run of three laps which immediately put him 1.5s clear of the Prosts

Hakkinen was by no means a long way off Schumacher's pace and eclipsed his section times on several laps. The Finn finished the session with the fastest time through the third intermediate section, but did not string a run together to go fastest overall.

McLaren team mate David Coulthard was unable to even set a time. The Scot was one of the first to leave the pits only five minutes into the session, but halfway round his out lap the car slowed, forcing Coulthard to return to the pits. The problem was not fixed before the end of the session.

Jaguar found some encouragement after a turbulent time recently, with Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert in fifth and seventh respectively. Heidfeld's time also remained near the top, giving him an eventual third place. But with so many of the front-runners only completing a handful of laps, and both Jordans failing to set a time, it is most certainly early days.

For full practice session results, click here.

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