The minutes to the session are ticking down, the track with its new, jet-black surface has never looked so good. The sound of air guns from the garages, then engines being warmed, French chatter through the PA system, the flags of the world fluttering in the breeze high above.
The red light at the end of the pitlane goes out as the green comes on. Anthony Davidson - first car in the first garage - gets out first. Takuma Sato has to be pushed through a three-point turn by the mechanics, delaying Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli for a few seconds. Nick Heidfeld is just leaving the pitlane as Davidson completes an installation lap and returns. As he's pushed into the garage you can smell the hot oil on the breeze.
A McLaren - Fernando Alonso - comes out and peels to the left, the lane reserved for dummy starts. He does one, the Mercedes engine falling down almost to tick-over as the traction control does its stuff, before then accelerating savagely. Giancarlo Fisichella then goes through the same procedure in the Renault and its t/c sounds much harsher.
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