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Renault, McLaren dominate French practice

July 01, 2005 16:57 IST

Renault and McLaren set the scene for a French Grand Prix battle after dominating the first free practice on Friday.

McLaren's Spanish test driver Pedro de la Rosa, who will not compete on Sunday, was the fastest man on the track but it was Renault's championship leader and compatriot Fernando Alonso who came closest to his time.

De la Rosa lapped well inside the Magny-Cours circuit's race lap record of one minute 15.377 seconds with a time of 1:14.778 on an overcast and blustery morning. Alonso's best was 1:15.183.

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was third quickest, ahead of BAR's Takuma Sato and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.

Alonso, winner of four races this season and runner-up in Magny-Cours last year, has won four of the nine Grands Prix. Raikkonen has three victories under his belt.

The Spaniard leads the standings with 59 points to Raikkonen's 37.

Friday's practice marked a welcome return to normality after two weeks dominated by the fallout from the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis, where neither Alonso nor Raikkonen raced after the seven Michelin-equipped teams withdrew.

The hour-long session included all the Michelin teams back on track without problems.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, hoping to become the first driver to win the same Grand Prix eight times on Sunday after three wins in four years at Magny-Cours, was only 11th quickest with Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello 14th.

Schumacher won at Indianapolis, Ferrari's first triumph of the season, in a race of just six cars after Michelin said they could not guarantee the safety of their tyres.

Sunday's race will be the first French Grand Prix in 40 years without a French driver but Olivier Panis provided a local flavour by driving the third Toyota in the practice session.

Panis, the last Frenchman to race in Formula One before he retired last season, was seventh quickest with a lap of 1:16.146.

Toyota's Italian Jarno Trulli, who took the team's first Formula One pole position at Indianapolis but then did not race, failed to set a timed lap.

Jordan's Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro, third in Indianapolis, came down to earth with a bang after flying high over a kerb and damaging his car's rear suspension.

1st Free Practice session 1: 
  1.  Pedro de la Rosa (Spain)         McLaren   1:14.778
  2.  Fernando Alonso (Spain)          Renault   1:15.183
  3.  Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy)     Renault   1:15.255
  4.  Takuma Sato (Japan)              BAR       1:15.530
  5.  Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)         McLaren   1:15.877
  6.  Jenson Button (Britain)          BAR       1:16.038
  7.  Olivier Panis (France)           Toyota    1:16.146
  8.  Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia)    McLaren   1:16.366
  9.  Ralf Schumacher (Germany)        Toyota    1:16.731
10.  Nick Heidfeld (Germany)          Williams  1:16.758
11.  Michael Schumacher (Germany)     Ferrari   1:16.838
12.  David Coulthard (Britain)        Red Bull  1:17.168
13.  Christian Klien (Austria)        Red Bull  1:17.343
14.  Rubens Barrichello (Brazil)      Ferrari   1:17.389
15.  Mark Webber (Australia)          Williams  1:17.451
16.  Felipe Massa (Brazil)            Sauber    1:17.777
17.  Jacques Villeneuve (Canada)      Sauber    1:18.192
18.  Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy)        Red Bull  1:18.876
19.  Robert Doornbos (Netherlands)    Jordan    1:19.001
20.  Narain Karthikeyan (India)       Jordan    1:20.067
21.  Christijan Albers (Netherlands)  Minardi   1:20.382
22.  Patrick Friesacher (Austria)     Minardi   1:20.725
23.  Tiago Monteiro (Portugal)        Jordan    1:21.725
24.  Jarno Trulli (Italy)             Toyota           

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