Free practice 3: Schuey turns up wick

A familiar story? After playing themselves in gently on Friday, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari cranked the pace up for the first of Saturday's two 45-minute free practice sessions and left the peg at 1m13.729s - a staggering 1.903s quicker than the 2000 pole, with a lot more undoubtedly still to come

Free practice 3: Schuey turns up wick

The big guns of Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-BMW left it late before finally appearing on track in the 45-minute session (indeed, McLaren's Mika Hakkinen chose not to appear at all). But the briefest of appearances by the major players still confirmed that the battle for the French Grand Prix pole could and should be fought out in the rarefied air of the 1m12s zone.

Second fastest, and appearing even later than Schumacher, was his only real challenger for the 2001 world title, David Coulthard. The McLaren man reeled off a 1m14.135s lap before disappearing back into his garage.

Ralf Schumacher made it three marques in the top three, putting in a 1m14.932s fast lap for Williams, with Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari and Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams completing the top five.

As per the recent norm, the four Honda-powered machines filled spots six to nine, with Jarno Trulli's Jordan leading the way. But with no Hakkinen, there was a spare slot in the top 10, duly taken by Kimi Raikkonen's Sauber-Petronas.

After touching the giddy heights of second in Friday's free practice, Eddie Irvine's Jaguar wound up only 16th, despite pounding round for a total of 22 laps, while Benetton-Renault finished the session 17th and 19th.

It's the day Renault unleashes the evolution of its so far troubled wide-angle V10 - if it's already fitted, one assumes the session was more of a glorified systems check than a chance to chase times...

For free practice session 3 results, click here.

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