Practice 3: Williams dominates

Ralf Schumacher demonstrated that the Williams team's resurgence in form looks set to continue in the French Grand Prix, setting a stunning time in the final practice session to go fastest ahead of team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya

European GP winner Schumacher lapped in 1m14.966s, a full six-tenths faster than his Colombian team-mate. They will both be out early in this afternoon's final qualifying session, however, and will be hoping that track conditions do not improve for the later runners.

McLaren's David Coulthard produced both his most and least convincing laps of the weekend. A stellar 1m15.600s, which was good enough for P1 for much of the session, was followed by a lap that ended with a spin at the new Lycee complex which could have happened on at least the previous three corners. He ended the session in third position.

Michael Schumacher was a solid yet unspectacular fourth for Ferrari, lapping almost a second slower than his younger brother. His team-mate Rubens Barrichello was even slower, and ended the session down in ninth position.

Schumacher's main title rival Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest in his McLaren, having set the pace early on. He was just a couple of hundredths faster than this morning's pacesetter Fernando Alonso (Renault).

Mark Webber (Jaguar) and Olivier Panis (Toyota) continued their impressive weekends with the seventh and eighth fastest times respectively. Renault's Jarno Trulli rounded out the top 10.

Yesterday's surprise fastest man Jos Verstappen had a scare right at the end of the session when a cloud of smoke was emitted from the left-rear corner of his Minardi. He ended the session 19th fastest, just a few thousandths slower than Jordan's Ralph Firman, who was second fastest in qualifying yesterday. The lack of rain in the air at Magny-Cours means a repeat of their performances yesterday is unlikely.

After BAR's legal problems that curtailed its running on Friday, Jenson Button lost more track time following his engine failure in the opening session today. He had a new motor fitted in time for the final couple of minutes of the session, which means a meagre sum total of 26 laps completed by him thus far before final qualifying. He was still 15th quickest today, with team-mate Jacques Villeneuve just two places ahead of him.

Like BAR, fellow Bridgestone runners Sauber, Jordan and Minardi propped up the times and appear to have a dry weather performance deficit to the Michelin posse.

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