Saturday Free Practice - French GP

Cool Coulthard stays fastest

Saturday Free Practice - French GP

Cool Coulthard stays fastest

David Coulthard made maximum use of track conditions to retain the fastest practice time for McLaren. The Scot set his quickest time early in the session, and then watched as a fast-rising air temperature prevented anyone else from challenging it. The Scot's morning was not untroubled, however. In the second half of the session he again stopped with mechanical problems, his engine breaking after, it was suspected, the oil tank may have cracked as it had yesterday. Mika Hakkinen was second fastest and much happier with his McLaren, setting a time less than two tenths slower than Coulthard after the temperature had risen.

Barrichello third for Ferrari

While Michael Schumacher used old tyres and focused entirely on setting up his Ferrari F1-2000 for qualifying, Rubens Barrichello tried new tyres at the end. "I could have been half a second faster," the Brazilian said, "but I caught traffic at the end of the lap." Schumacher tried smaller and lighter brake discs, and made several changes to his mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups all through the morning.

A better morning at Williams

Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button were happier with the balance of their Williams-BMWs after the team switched from race set-up work yesterday to focus solely on qualifying trim today. But there were worries over rear tyre wear and poor performance, relative to Button's car, from Schumacher's engine.

Jordans evenly matched

Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were separated by less than three hundredths of a second, each only trying new tyres at the end of the session. "Nothing was difficult, but nothing was easy," Frentzen reported. "With the changing track conditions, qualifying is going to be very difficult."

Promising runs for Jaguar

Eddie Irvine took seventh fastest time for Jaguar, with Johnny Herbert 11th less than two tenths behind despite jumping over one chicane. Both focused on set-up work, but Irvine was concerned that his R1 was 5 km/h slower than Herbert's in straightline speed.

Fisichella goes backwards, but Wurz happier

Giancarlo Fisichella was very unhappy with his Benetton's balance, and slid over a gravel bed at one stage, but Alexander Wurz reported himself happier with his car's behaviour, especially the level of grip.

Disappointment at Sauber

Mika Salo and Pedro Diniz were both disappointed with their lap times at Sauber. "We have the latest evolution of the engine today," Salo said, "yet still my lap times are slower than yesterday when I was fifth fastest in similar temperatures." The Finn said the newer engine had inferior driveability.

In brief...

Nick Heidfeld, Ricardo Zonta and Marc Gene all took trips over gravel beds. Only one Evo IV Peugeot engine was used, by Alesi, but both drivers will have fresh versions of the unit fitted in time for qualifying.

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