Free practice 4: Rubens mixes it with McLaren

David Coulthard ran into problems in the fourth practice session for tomorrow's French Grand Prix, suffering a suspected broken gearbox. As a result he only completed a handful of laps, but with most drivers concentrating on running on used tyres, his time from earlier this morning was good enough to hold on to the top spot

Free practice 4: Rubens mixes it with McLaren

The McLaren-Mercedes' 'box gave up halfway round the Magny-Cours circuit, forcing the Scot to make his smokey return to the pits. He was unable to get back on the track before the end of the 45-minute session.

McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen did not improve his time from today's first session either and held onto the second spot behind Coulthard. Of the intermediate times, the Finn was quickest on the first two, but seemed unable to match Coulthard's pace in the all important final section.

McLaren were having it all their own way as main rivals Ferrari languished at the foot of the top ten. Rubens Barrichello then put together a lap which moved his F1-2000 up to third place, only 0.535s behind Hakkinen. Michael Schumacher finished eighth, despite starting a flying lap immediately before the chequered flag waved to end the session. The German looked to be fighting the car through both the fast Estoril corner and Imola chicane and finished the lap 2.2s off Coulthard's time.

The Jordans held formation, with Jarno Trulli still ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, but were pushed down to fifth and sixth from their previous third and fourth places. With Barrichello occupying third, fourth spot was taken by the flying Williams-BMW of Ralf Schumacher.

Rumoured Benetton candidate Jacques Villeneuve finished the session in 14th, despite a mighty effort through the impressive Imola chicane. The Canadian just managed to catch the back end of his BAR-Honda as he exited the 140mph right-left flick.

The teams now have two hours in which to fine tune their qualifying setups, before the frantic hour-long qualifying session begins. The times so far bode well for McLaren, but nobody should right off Michael Schumacher at this stage.

For full Practice Session 4 Results, click here.

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