Piquet quickest in practice

Nelson Piquet followed Fernando Alonso’s lead by giving Renault fans further cause to cheer ahead of their home grand prix in France.

Undoubtedly running on low fuel in the final hour-long practice session ahead of qualifying later today, Piquet set the quickest time at the 4.411km Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours.

The Brazilian, enduring a torrid time in his rookie season as he has yet to score a point, posted a lap of one minute 15.750secs, 0.028secs faster than Alonso, who topped second practice yesterday.

Mark Webber was nine thousandths of a second slower as he finally hooked up his Red Bull on a lap that was more than 1.3secs quicker than his best time of yesterday.

That mark was set in the closing stages as a number of drivers ran light on fuel, with Sebastian Vettel in his Toro Rosso and Williams’ Nico Rosberg also dipping under one minute 16 seconds for the lap.

The consistent Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest in 1:16.003 in his Ferrari, with the Toyota of Jarno Trulli sixth and Lewis Hamilton seventh for McLaren.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg face 10-place grid penalties after their accidents in the pit lane at the Canadian Grand Prix 13 days ago.

Sebastien Bourdais, on home soil and in his Toro Rosso, followed in eighth, with Felipe Massa ninth in his Ferrari and David Coulthard 10th for Red Bull.

Overall, less than a second separated the top 18, albeit with the Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello continuing to struggle in 17th and 18th.

The Force India duo of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil again brought up the rear, with the young German 1.862secs adrift of Piquet.

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