McLaren endured an unusually below-par practice session in preparation for Sunday's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, as the world championship leaders languished some way behind pace-setting rivals Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton ended the day fourth-quickest after suffering a persistent engine problem throughout proceedings, with team-mate Fernando Alonso even further back in eighth place, unaccustomed territory for the reigning double world champion.

"This morning was a little frustrating," the British rookie acknowledged, "as I missed some track time when the engine protection system came in as a result of the engine running too cool and I stopped on track. Luckily the car was returned with about 45 minutes of the session to run so I still managed to get quite a few laps in and complete our planned programme in the afternoon."

"We managed to complete our programme," agreed Alonso, unconcerned by the squad's positions on the timesheets, "and we have a good understanding of the Bridgestone Potenza tyre characteristics in these cooler than expected temperatures. We could have been faster today and there is still a little bit of work to do tomorrow on the set-up, but I think we will be stronger over the weekend than we appear today and so am not too worried about the results so far."

McLaren CEO Ron Dennis admitted there was "room for improvement" ahead of qualifying and the race, but remained confident the Woking-based outfit would nevertheless once more be in strong contention for the front row of the grid come Saturday afternoon.

"It was a reasonable Friday practice despite a few minor glitches this morning," the 60-year-old remarked, "but we still made significant steps forward. However, there is still room for improvement and we will be working very hard overnight to ensure we are in the best possible shape for tomorrow's qualifying."

 

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