Piquet fastest in final practice - France

Renault's Nelson Piquet was fastest in the final practice session before qualifying for the French Grand Prix

Piquet fastest in final practice - France

Under pressure to improve his qualifying performances after the difficult start to his Formula One career, the Brazilian rookie led the way for the majority of the session.

Piquet's hard tyre laptime was sufficient to keep him at the head of the pack as few drivers gained time when they switched to softs in the final minutes.

Mark Webber took second for Red Bull Racing, with Sebastian Vettel maintaining his superb practice form by taking third place in his Toro Rosso.

As usual, the likely front-runners ran heavier fuel loads in this session in preparation for Q3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) was the best of the likely pole contenders in fifth place, behind Williams' Nico Rosberg.

A variety of drivers had swapped the top spot in the first half of the session, including both Toro Rosso drivers, before Piquet stamped his authority on the hour.

He usurped Vettel with a 1:16.344 lap on the harder tyres after 22 minutes, and although he was beaten by Lewis Hamilton soon afterwards, Piquet's second run was quick enough to move him back ahead - his 1:15.750 lap beating the McLaren by four tenths of a second.

Webber was the first major contender to try soft tyres, and closed to within 0.009 seconds of Piquet, who then failed to improve his time when he tried softs shortly afterwards - despite setting a new benchmark in the middle sector.

Vettel had remained in the top ten all morning, and shot back up to third when he switched to the softer Bridgestones, with Rosberg also making a late jump up the order to secure fourth.

Behind sixth-placed Jarno Trulli's Toyota, Hamilton ended up seventh after an error at the Imola chicane on his soft tyre run.

Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and David Coulthard (Red Bull) completed the top tens.

Likely Q3 contenders Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and BMW duo Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld appeared to be focusing on heavier fuel runs, as they ended the morning in 12th, 13th, 14th and 18th places respectively.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Piquet Renault (B) 1:15.750 19 2. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:15.759 + 0.009 14 3. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:15.827 + 0.077 21 4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:15.974 + 0.224 17 5. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:16.003 + 0.253 18 6. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:16.147 + 0.397 20 7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:16.182 + 0.432 16 8. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:16.235 + 0.485 18 9. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:16.256 + 0.506 17 10. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:16.282 + 0.532 18 11. Glock Toyota (B) 1:16.344 + 0.594 20 12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:16.437 + 0.687 20 13. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:16.545 + 0.795 16 14. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:16.617 + 0.867 20 15. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:16.644 + 0.894 16 16. Button Honda (B) 1:16.651 + 0.901 20 17. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:16.658 + 0.908 17 18. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:16.687 + 0.937 19 19. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:17.365 + 1.615 23 20. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:17.612 + 1.862 21 All timing unofficial 
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