Whatever McLaren felt it had still in its locker after Friday's two practice sessions at Magny-Cours, Lewis Hamilton dragged some of it onto the track in Saturday morning's hour-long outing, besting the two Ferraris for the first time this weekend.

The championship leader carded the fastest lap of the event so far as the teams geared up for qualifying, recording a 1min 14.843secs that proved to be 0.063secs too good for Felipe Massa, while Kimi Raikkonen nearly four-tenths further back in third. Underlining the turn in fortunes, Hamilton completed just eight laps compared to nearly double that for his main rivals, setting up an intriguing battle for the timed session to follow.

You had to look a little further down the timesheet to find Fernando Alonso, however, the Spaniard having sat out the majority of the session and getting just one flying lap. Despite that - the late start following a rare mechanical failure for Hamilton on Friday - Alonso still managed a lap good enough for eighth.

Filling the gap between Raikkonen and Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella transformed Renault's position in the pecking order by claiming fourth and fifth respectively, with Robert Kubica - showing no ill-effects remaining from his Montreal shunt - and Nico Rosberg next up. All were within eight-tenths of Hamilton, with the first driver to lag by more than a second being eleventh-placed Tonio Liuzzi. Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard completed the top ten.

While Kubica managed to find his way into the top ten, however, BMW Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld was attempting to make up for lost time after pulling out of Friday afternoon's session with back pains. The German managed to push himself up to 15th as the chequered flag fell, having completed 18 laps in the process.

That total was far from being the highest of the session, however, with Christijan Albers racking up 23 laps - still not enough to haul himself off bottom spot - and both Liuzzi and Ralf Schumacher managed 22 apiece.

While Rosberg and Coulthard managed top ten places, team-mates Alex Wurz and Mark Webber occupied positions closer to the 'wrong' end of the timesheet, the Australian still unable to prise his Red Bull out of the bottom half-dozen as he attempted to make up time lost to transmission problems on day one.

The session was interrupted for nine minutes as the organisers sought to replace some of the artificial grass in the new section at the end of the lap, but there were no incidents of note.

 

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