Pre-qual: JPM tops times

Williams-BMW's Juan Pablo Montoya recorded the fastest lap in pre-qualifying ahead of the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was second fastest, but his team-mate Rubens Barrichello hit hydraulic trouble and failed to leave the pits

The penultimate car on track due to his US GP disqualification, Montoya was fastest through the first two sectors on his way to a 1m13.377s lap.

First out, thanks to his Indianapolis victory, Schumacher recorded a sublime 1m13.541s lap despite less favourable conditions. It wasn't all good news for Ferrari, however. Barrichello didn't even make it out of the pit lane in his F2004 due to a hydraulic problem, and will be the first car out in the qualifying session that follows. The Ferrari mechanics are readying the spare car for Rubens in case his racecar cannot be fixed in time.

David Coulthard (third) and Kimi Raikkonen (fourth) proved that the McLaren renaissance was in full flow. The Finn was faster than Schumacher in the final sector, but was unable to make up the time lost over the opening two-thirds of the lap, and was even pipped for second fastest time by DC by a couple of hundredths - both were within two-tenths of Schuey's time.

Fernando Alonso just failed to split the McLarens in his Renault in fifth, while Jenson Button was next up for BAR-Honda, the Briton stringing together a typically super-smooth lap, good for 1m13.772s.

Renault's Jarno Trulli set the second-fastest middle sector time but failed to live up to Schumacher's overall pace. He was seventh fastest, ahead of Takuma Sato (BAR) and Marc Gene (Williams), the latter having a wild slide on the exit of the Nurburgring chicane.

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