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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 FRENCH GRAND PRIX - RACEDAY AT MAGNY COURS
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Raceday at Magny Cours
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
08:00 Hello and welcome to autosport.com Live for raceday at Magny Cours, as we approach the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Today we will be bringing you updates and news from the circuit in the build-up to the race and a look back at the qualifying hour, along with live text commentary of the race itself, later this afternoon.

08:02 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other autosport.com forum members.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

08:05 Overnight the weather has taken a turn for the worse, as a band of showers with embedded thunderstorms moved north-east across the country. These showers arrived in Magny Cours in the last hour or so.

The national and local rainfall radars show that the Circuit de Nevers will be in the line of fire, with further smaller showers possible throughout the morning.

We will of course continuously update you with the weather and track conditions as we build up towards the Grand Prix.

08:15 Saturday dawned dry and bright at the Circuit de Nevers with final practice and the qualifying session on the menu.

The teams ran different programmes of work during a very interesting but incident-free 60 minutes of practice. Front-running teams concentrated on race set-ups, while those further down the field perfected their qualifying pace. Progressing into the second and third rounds of qualifying has become a top priority for many of the teams this season, with the difference in times closer in 2008 than ever before. Nelson Piquet ended up fastest in the session for Renault, with Mark Webber second and Sebastian Vettel third.

Piquet fastest in final practice - France

Conditions remained bright into the afternoon qualifying session, and with times extremely close in the morning, big scalps were always likely to be eliminated during the first and second period of the session.

Both Honda drivers found themselves on the wrong side of the division after 20 minutes. The pair were sadly eliminated along with Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams and both Force India cars.

Nick Heidfeld scraped through the first phase with just 19 seconds left on the clock as he began his final effort that would see him move out of the dropzone and onto the next stage. However, the BMW Sauber driver would not be so fortunate in the second session and he found himself eliminated along with both Toro Rossos, Nico Rosberg - already carrying a ten-place grid penalty after being involved in an incident at the Canadian Grand Prix - and Nelson Piquet.

The top ten shootout unfolded with no major surprises on the front row of the grid. Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa had shown in the morning that they would be a force to be reckoned with, and they duly locked out the front row for this afternoon's race. Lewis Hamilton qualified third in the McLaren Mercedes, but he is carrying a ten-place penalty, dropping Lewis to 13th place on the grid.

Fernando Alonso qualified fourth and will start third for the 70-lap event, with Toyota driver Jarno Trulli putting in a stunning qualifying performance in fifth. With most of the drivers in the top ten being promoted at least one place, Trulli will start from the second row today.

Raikkonen on Ferrari's 200th pole - France

One driver who went down the grid rather than up was the other McLaren driver - Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn was placed under investigation during qualifying by the stewards after a seemingly unintentional baulking incident which hindered Red Bull's Mark Webber. Later on Saturday afternoon, the stewards deemed that Kovalainen had indeed held up the Australian, and he was handed a five-place grid penalty, dropping him to tenth position on the grid.

McLaren frustrated by Kovalainen penalty

08:15 The application of penalties makes the provisional grid look like this:

Pos  Driver        Team
 1.  Raikkonen     Ferrari
 2.  Massa         Ferrari
 3.  Alonso        Renault
 4.  Trulli        Toyota
 5.  Kubica        BMW Sauber
 6.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault
 7.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault
 8.  Glock         Toyota
 9.  Piquet        Renault
10.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes **
11.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber
12.  Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes *
14.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota
16.  Button        Honda
17.  Barrichello   Honda
18.  Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari
19.  Sutil         Force India-Ferrari
20.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota *

* 10-place penalty for Montreal crash
** five-place penalty for impeding
08:25 Following the shower we reported earlier, the track is damp for the GP2 sprint race.

The rain stopped some time ago and a drying process is underway.

08:29 While most of the GP2 pack await the start on wet tyres, Yelmer Buurman is one driver gambling on slick rubber as the track continues to dry.

08:33 The GP2 sprint race is underway on an ever-drying Magny Cours circuit.

08:43 Polesitter Mike Conway continues to lead the GP2 race as the greasy conditions cause plenty of incidents, as is to be expected.

A drying line is continuing to form and the slick tyre starters at the back of the pack may be well placed, with cars now pitting to take slicks.

08:47 While the GP2 sprint race continues with no rain falling, we look to the radar to see what is following on behind in terms of weather.

The local radar shows that the worst of any nearby rain is behind us.

Indeed, looking at the satellite picture, there is little in the way of rain to come for the foreseeable future.

08:47 Romain Grosjean was an early pitter for slicks and has ended up in the Estoril gravel as he struggled to get his dry rubber up to temperature on the still-damp surface.

08:50 Light rain is falling once again in the pit lane.

08:57 The lightest of showers has just passed over the circuit and has now stopped.

On track a highly entertaining GP2 sprint race continues, with Yelmer Buurman now leading, having started on slick tyres.

09:09 Sebastien Buemi has taken the GP2 lead in a sensational side-by-side drag race down to the Adelaide hairpin with Arden teammate Yelmer Buurman.

09:22 Sebastien Buemi scores his first GP2 win after successfully gambling on slick rubber at the start of the race. He started 21st on the grid, held on well during the opening laps, and took the lead from Yelmer Buurman with a surge of speed late in the race.

The track now has a fully dry racing line and the next action is the Porsche Supercup race.

09:42 The Porsche Supercup cars are lined up on the grid for their 14-lap race under overcast skies.

The track has continued to dry since the GP2 race, with no further rain fall.

09:46 Weather update.

The teams, the fans and the autosport.com Live commentators have been glued to the local rainfall radar this morning as showers continue to move around the area at speed.

The next batch of rain is due within the hour. If you look at Gueret on the map shown, to the west of Magny Cours, you can see that two showers - a large one to the south of the town, and a smaller one to the north of Gueret, are merging into a large shower.

Its track is north-east, on course for Magny Cours and the latest estimate is that it will pass over the circuit around 10:15 GMT - 1h 45m before the Grand Prix start.

09:55 Le Mans LMP2 winner Jeroen Bleekemolen leads the Porsche Supercup in Magny Cours after a chaotic opening lap.

Polesitter Nicolas Armindo tried to have the start aborted but his signal came too late and the pack departed around him, with the car eventually getting under way.

Jaap van Lagen has climbed from sixth on the grid to second on the road and Ireland's Damien Faulkner is an early retirement.

10:19 Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen has won the Porsche Supercup race in France, under threatening skies, holding off race-long pressure from Jaap van Lagen and Stefan Rosina.

Bleekemolen re-takes the lead in the championship after former joint leader Jan Seyffarth finished eighth.

Patrick Huisman came in fourth, with Danny Watts holding off the ever-spectacular Uwe Alzen for fifth.

10:30 The next action on the circuit is the Formula One drivers parade, which is getting underway with the threat of rain imminent.

10:49 The rain continues to hold off remarkably at Magny Cours despite the appearrance of rain on the radar around the circuit.

The drivers parade has concluded and we are less than 75 minutes away from the formation lap.

Kimi Raikkonen celebrates pole in Magny Cours
10:55 Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen cantered to pole position on Saturday - even aborting a faster final effort, saving a little fuel, when it became clear that he was unchallenged at the top of the timesheet.

On a day where both McLaren and BMW are facing lower than normal grid slots, Kimi knows that it is a great opportunity for him to capitalise in the points race.

"We have seen from the past couple of races that things can go easily wrong – we are in a good position but we need to get the points tomorrow (Sunday) and try to win the race," said Raikkonen.

"Any point that we can get is important, we are behind in the points, but not too far away so, I mean, we need to look overall but I am definitely looking for the win and hopefully we can achieve it.

"We have two fast guys in the team, either one can win the race tomorrow, so hopefully I can achieve it, score the maximum points, it would help quite a bit in the championship.

"It’s been a good weekend, the car has been good. It was the same last year – it’s not really favourite circuit but it seems to be good so hopefully we can achieve a victory tomorrow."

11:00 Light rain is falling over the pits and paddock at Magny Cours.

11:04 Light rain continues to fall, making the circuit damp once again.

11:10 The shower continues to make the circuit damp with 50 minutes before the formation lap.

11:15 The rain shower has eased to a stop in the last couple of minutes.

The drivers will face a damp track when the pit lane opens in 15 minutes.

11:15 The immediate forecast for the next couple of hours is for this on/off light rain to continue.

The local rainfall radar shows further light rain tracking north-east towards the circuit.

Track conditions are unlikely to move into an 'extreme wets' condition at any stage during the day. The choice for the teams and drivers before the start will be whether to start on dry tyres or the durable Bridgestone intermediate.

11:21 With a warm ambient temperature, the circuit is drying rapidly after that recent shower.

11:25 Rubens Barrichello has been moved to the back of the grid after a gearbox change in the Honda:

Barrichello gets gearbox change penalty

11:26 The track continues to dry at speed, with little evidence remaining of that shower at the top of the hour.

11:29 Fernando Alonso climbs aboard his Renault and is being strapped in ahead of the signal to go out on his reconaissance lap to the grid.

11:30 The pitlane exit is now open so that the drivers can make their way round to the grid and more importantly, check out the current track conditions.

11:32 Lewis Hamilton leaves the McLaren garage and makes his way onto the track for his run towards the grid.

11:33 Rubens Barrichello leaves the pits for a reconnaissance lap on intermediate rubber, while most of the field are using a dry tyre for the out lap.

11:34 The track is far too dry for intermediates and Barrichello pits for a change to dry rubber and a second lap to the grid.

11:35 Lewis Hamilton arrives on the grid choosing to make just the one lap round.

11:36 Fernando Alonso is pushed into his gridslot, also having made just one reconaissance lap.

"Obviously rain creates a bit more opportunity for strategy, so we don't mind whether it rains or it doesn't rain. We'll race hard. As long as no one has any incidents in the first lap then I think we'll get in the points."
Ron Dennis on German broadcaster Premiere

11:38 Today's polesitter Kimi Raikkonen arrives at the front of the grid with a used set of hard compound tyres on his Ferrari.

11:41 Raikkonen, ever the cool customer, is out of the car now standing to the side talking with his race engineer Chris Dyer. Both of them are looking around at the sky, as Kimi points into the sky at what he thinks could be a potential shower.

11:45 As the pits close, once again the grid is a tense place to be as the chance of further showers has everyone looking to the skies.

11:46 The French national anthem rings out over Magny Cours.

"We haven't ran in the wet this weekend in Magny Cours but every time we have ran in the wet this year we've been very strong, and he's (Massa) been very strong, so we've just got to make the right decisions for him."
Rob Smedley, Massa's engineer on British broadcaster ITV

11:49 All around the circuit is overcast, but directly above Magny Cours the sun is trying hard to break through for the first time today.

11:50 The traditional French Air Force flypast makes its way over the Circuit de Nevers.

11:53 Fernando Alonso stretches his muscles, ready for the challenge ahead. The Spaniard climbs into his third place starting Renault.

11:54 All the way down the grid the drivers are in their cars, being strapped in, receiving the last good luck handshakes from their crews and taking in final instructions from their race engineers.

11:54 The BMW team have yet to fit tyres to Kubica's car. They have until the three minute signal to get this job done.

The harder dry tyre is likely to be a popular choice for the start as the rain this morning will have removed some of the rubber from the track.

11:55 With clouds all around but bright sunshine now directly overhead, we reach five minutes to go until the formation lap for the 2008 French Grand Prix.

11:56 The track temperature is 30c, with a 24c ambient.

11:58 Key factors for the race today:

Tyres - With less rubber down on the track than the previous two days, graining is likely to be an issue early in each stint.

Weather - Light rain is predicted in showers later during the race.

Adelaide hairpin - The main overtaking point on the circuit will see lots of action this afternoon.

11:59 Polesitter Kimi Raikkonen is starting on the hard dry tyre whereas Lewis Hamilton has soft rubber on the McLaren.

12:00 The formation lap for the French Grand Prix begins. All cars leave the grid without problem.

12:01 Hamilton is looking for a start-line advantage from the softer rubber, with almost everyone else going for the more durable hard option.

12:01 The formation lap continues and Raikkonen leads the pack towards the Nurburgring chicane.

12:02 The Ferraris enter the final Lycee complex and bring the field down to the starting grid.

We are set for 70 racing laps of the Circuit de Nevers.

Lap 1: The five red lights go out and we are racing in Magny Cours with the official forecast still suggesting more rain possible in the next half hour.

Lap 1: Kimi Raikkonen gets a great start and leads into turn one with Massa moving into second place.

Lap 1: Lewis Hamilton powers around the outside of Nick Heidfeld in to the Adelaide hairpin.

Lap 1: Hamilton tries a demon outbraking move at the Nurburgring chicane and runs wide but keeps the car on track.

Lap 2: Raikkonen rips through at the end of lap 1 ahead of Massa, Trulli, Alonso and Kubica.

Lap 2: Hamilton's move at the Nurburgring involved him using the run-off to pass Vettel and the move may be questioned by the stewards.

He runs tenth behind teammate Kovalainen.

Lap 2: Down the field Sebastian Vettel has made a very good start, moving up to 12th.

Lap 3: Kimi Raikkonen completes his second lap with a 1.3 second lead over Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa.

Lap 4: Lewis Hamilton ever so slightly nudged his nose into the back of teammate Kovalainen's car at Chateau d'eau on the first lap, but there is no apparent damage and he continues unabated.

Lap 4: Nelson Piquet in eighth is holding up the McLaren pair of Kovalainen and Hamilton.

Lap 5: Replays of the start show the Ferraris getting away well from the front. Fernando Alonso didn't get a great launch in the Renault and he fell behind Trulli and Kubica, with Fernando getting back past the BMW later in the lap.

Lap 5: Adrian Sutil is in 18th place, and has Nico Rosberg 19th and Jenson Button running last climbing all over the back of his Force India machine.

Lap 6: Lewis Hamilton has slipped by teammate Heikki Kovalainen, diving down the inside at the hairpin.

Lewis is now ninth and chasing the Renault of Piquet.

Lap 6: Jenson Button has damaged the front nose of his Honda at the end of the lap. He therefore misses the pit entrance and is forced to drive a whole lap with a smashed front wing.

Lap 7: Button now comes into the pits for repairs to the Honda. Tyres and a front nose change and the Briton leaves the lane in a total time of 28.9 seconds.

Lap 8: Nelson Piquet is still in eighth position and holding off the attentions of the McLaren drivers Hamilton (9th) and Kovalainen (10th)

Lap 8: Kimi Raikkonen leads by 2.6 seconds over Felipe Massa. They are pulling away from Jarno Trulli's Toyota, who has Alonso and Kubica keeping him busy.

Glock's Toyota and Webber's BMW are on the road in between a fascinating battle between Piquet and Hamilton.

Lap 9: Hamilton lines up Piquet down the straight towards the Adelaide hairpin, but Piquet does a very good job, really late on the brakes and keeps track position.

Lap 9: Race control: Car No.22 under investigation by the stewards.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lap 10: The pair of Ferraris continue to fly off in to the distance and are now 7.5 seconds ahead of third-placed Trulli, who is now pulling a gap on Alonso.

Lap 11: We mentioned on the first lap that Hamilton was too fast into the Nurburgring chicane and ran wide. In doing so he overtook Sebastian Vettel round the outside on entry to the right-left flick.

The stewards are now looking at the incident to determine whether he should be penalised.

Lap 11: It is a new fastest lap for Kimi Raikkonen as he pulls to 3.2 seconds clear of his teammate.

Lap 12: Lewis Hamilton in 9th position continues to swarm around all over the back of Nelson Piquet's Renault, but Piquet is driving well and continues to hold the McLaren at bay.

Lap 13: The soft tyres on Hamilton's car look to be struggling with the current track conditions - with a softer compound more susceptible to wear after much of the rubber was stripped from the circuit by the rain this morning.

Lap 13: Adrian Sutil in 18th place has caught the Honda driven by Rubens Barrichello.

Further up the road Sebastien Bourdais in 15th has been attacking Kazuki Nakajima for several laps now but has been unable to find a way by the Williams.

Lap 14: Race control: Drive through penalty for car 22 for gaining an advantage.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lap 14: Hamilton answers the call immediately and serves that drive through penalty.

Lap 15: Total pitlane time in to out is 14.5 seconds for Hamilton, and he rejoins in 13th position.

Lap 15: Meanwhile up front, Ferrari continue to set the pace and are pulling away from Trulli's Toyota by around a second per lap.

A new fastest lap for Kimi Raikkonen stretches his lead to a useful 4.1 seconds.

Lap 16: The Renault mechanics are preparing for a pit stop.

Lap 16: Jenson Button in last position is dropping off the pace. He is being lapped by most of the field and is having to move offline all the way round the lap to respect the blue flags.

Lap 16: Fenando Alonso pits at the end of lap 15.

Lap 17: Alonso slots in 12th, behind Heidfeld's BMW, sticking with the harder dry tyre.

Lap 17: Lewis Hamilton is now setting fastest sector times as he aims to climb up through the field. 12th-placed Nick Heidfeld is his next target and the BMW is 3.0 seconds ahead.

Lap 18: Raikkonen continues to demonstrate a rapid pace at the front and is almost five seconds ahead of his Ferrari teammate.

Lap 19: Raikkonen's Ferrari is replayed having a lock-up into the tricky 180 hairpin. The mistake costs him over a second from his usual pace.

Lap 19: There are numerous battles taking place further down the field.

Piquet v Kovalainen for 7th.
Heidfeld v Alonso for 11th.
Lewis Hamilton has caught Alonso now as Heidfeld draws away a little.

Lap 20: Jenson Button is back in the pitlane and it's a long stop for the Honda.

Lap 21: Button retires from the race. He was running last at the time and a long way behind the rest of the field.

Lap 21: Lewis Hamilton pits for the first time. He takes on hard tyres, a tank of fuel and is away after 9.1 seconds.

Lap 22: Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica pit from third and fourth. They maintain the order as they rejoin with hard tyres and fuel.

Lap 22: Leader Kimi Raikkonen pits the Ferrari.

Lap 22: Kimi Takes a slug of fuel and hard rubber, resuming in clear air.

Lap 22: Adrian Sutil pits from 17th place - promoted up one spot after Hamilton's pitstop. Sutil rejoins after a total pitlane time of 24.7 seconds.

Lap 23: Lewis Hamilton is now down in 18th position and chasing Nico Rosberg, who is struggling to make any progress after starting from the rear.

Lap 23: Massa leads but has yet to stop. He has just put a lap on Hamilton's McLaren.

Lap 24: Massa needs to get a spurt of pace on at this phase, if he is to take advantage of Raikkonen's earlier stop.

He now pits the Ferrari.

Lap 24: Hard tyres and fuel go in to the Ferrari and he rejoins in second place, behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Lap 25: Lewis Hamilton is all over the back of Nico Rosberg as the pair battle for 17th position.

Lap 25: Mark Webber pits the Red Bull and has come out ahead of Alonso's Renault. Alonso was the first man to pit and the Red Bull team have taken advantage of a heavier fuel load in qualifying.

Lap 26: Nelson Piquet runs third in the Renault but is due in the pits very soon, along with Kovalainen's McLaren.

Lap 27: Sebastien Bourdais has spent the first 25 laps of this race stuck under the gearbox of Kazuki Nakajima. Both have yet to pit and their batttle for 13th position continues.

Lap 27: Kovalainen initially got away behind Piquet, but Nelson had trouble getting the pit limiter disengaged and the McLaren surged ahead on the way out of the pits.

Lap 28: David Coulthard and Sebastian Vettel are running a long first stint. They are in third and seventh places respectively, as Coulthard pits.

Lap 28: Mark Webber in the Red Bull has lost his position ahead of Alonso after a spin in the final chicane. Mark has resumed, but drops to 9th in the order.

Lap 28: Bourdais now pits for the first time and gets out from Nakajima's dirty air. These two are set for a race-long battle and we will monitor the fight as it continues.

Lap 30: Kimi Raikkonen leads by 6.7 seconds over Felipe Massa.

Jarno Trulli is over 30 seconds behind the leader in third.

Lap 30: Robert Kubica is told on the radio that rain may fall in five minutes.

Lap 30: At the rear of the field Lewis Hamilton has just passed Nico Rosberg after battling the Williams for several laps. Hamilton went through at the inside at the Adelaide hairpin.

Lap 30: Sebastian Vettel with all the pitstops runs in fourth position now. He is due to pit very soon.

Lap 31: Sebasitan Vettel is up to fourth in the Toro Rosso and is harrying Jarno Trulli.

He pits from fourth ...

Lap 31: Vettel pits, along with Nick Heidfeld, and they resume in 12th and 13th.

Lap 32: Sebastien Bourdais after his pitstop is running 1:18.8 in comparison with Kazuki Nakajima's 1:19.1. Bourdais' pace is very good in the early stages of his second stint and he has a shot at passing Nakajima once the Japanese driver stops.

Lap 33: The pace of the Ferraris has fallen off to the late 1:17s as they maintain a substantial lead in the French Grand Prix.

Lap 34: Nakajima, Fisichella, Barrichello and Rosberg have all yet to stop after 32 laps.

The Nakajima-Bourdais gap is exactly 20 seconds and Bourdais has done enough we think to jump the Williams when the Japanese Nakajima pits.

Lap 34: Robert Kubica has caught up with Trulli's Toyota and is looking at what he can do to take the final podium place.

Lap 34: Giancarlo Fisichella pits for the first time at the end of lap 33. He rejoins after a total pitlane time of 24.8 seconds.

Lap 35: Sebastian Vettel rejoined after his pitstop in 12th position. He has jumped Nick Heidfeld no less in the BMW in that round of stops.

Vettel 12th, Heidfeld 13th, with Nakajima ahead of both and due to pit.

Lap 35: Fernando Alonso is catching the battle between Trulli and Kubica as the Toyota holds back the championship leader's BMW.

Lap 36: Kimi Raikkonen clocks a poor lap of 1:19.729 as he encounters Bourdais to lap the Toro Rosso. The gap is down to 4.1 seconds over Massa.

Lap 37: Rubens Barrichello pits for the first time in the Honda. He was in 14th position and before the stops was involved in a battle with Fisichella. Barrichello's total pitlane time is 24.7 seconds and he rejoins the fight.

Lap 38: Fernando Alonso is told to deliver his best laps by the Renault team as he closes to 4.3 seconds of Kubica's BMW.

Lap 38: Kazuki Nakajima now finally makes his first stop in the Williams. The gap he had on Bourdais was hovvering around the 20 second mark.

Nakajima exits and Bourdais takes the place from the Williams.

The Toro Rossos are both on the move during the pitstops and have taken clear track position from their rivals on the same strategy.

Lap 38: Felipe Massa is significantly quicker than leader Raikkonen at this stage and has closed the lead to 1.7 seconds.

Lap 39: Raikkonen's Ferrari is lapping in the 1:19s and Massa is now right on the tail of the leader.

Lap 39: Rubens Barrichello in 17th place rejoined after his stop and just kept track position ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella. Their respective pitlane times were just 0.1s apart.

Lap 40: Felipe Massa has easily dived through into the lead as Kimi Raikkonen has a problem with his Ferrari.

Lap 41: The autosport.com team in Magny Cours report that Raikkonen's car sounds rough as it passes the pits.

The exhaust is lose on Raikkonen's car.

Lap 42: Away from the lead change, there are some battles continuing down the field.

Sebastian Vettel is having a great race in 11th position (promoted one place after Nakajima's stop) and is drawing away from Nick Heidfeld in 12th. The gap is 3 seconds between them.

It's now Kazuki Nakajima's turn to stare at a gearbox in front of him. He remains around one second behind Bourdais as they battle over 15th.

Lap 42: Jarno Trulli is now closing down on Raikkonen's Ferrari at around a second per lap. There is a sizable 25 second gap between the second and third-placed cars.

Lap 43: Nico Rosberg pits for the first time in the Williams. He had climbed only as high as 14th position. He rejoins 19th and three seconds behind Adrian Sutil in 18th.

Lap 44: Felipe Massa has already pulled a 4.2 second gap as his teammate continues to struggle with exhaust problems.

Robert Kubica is still harrying Jarno Trulli for third, with Fernando Alonso rapidly closing on the pair of them.

Lap 44: Lewis Hamilton has climbed as far as 13th, having dispatched the slower drivers down the field.

Hamilton's next target is Nick Heidfeld's 12th place.

Lap 44: Alonso pits the Renault from fifth.

He takes the soft tyres and fuel to the finish, rejoining behind Heidfeld in 12th.

Lap 46: Jarno Trulli continues to catch Kimi Raikkonen at around one second per lap. The gap is 21 seconds, with 26 laps remaining.

Lap 46: Giancarlo Fisichella in 17th has lost pace and is losing ground to Rubens Barrichello ahead of him. Adrian Sutil was catching his teammate fast but comes into the pits for the second time, leaving the pitlane in 19th position and last on the road.

Lap 47: The BMW and Ferrari pit crews are standing ready in the pit lane.

Lap 48: When Fernando Alonso rejoined from his second stop, he slotted in between the Heidfeld-Hamilton battle.

Lewis is now on the tail of Alonso again as they battle for 12th, with Heidfeld now drawing away from both of them.

Lap 48: Robert Kubica pits the BMW from fourth, taking soft tyres and resuming behind Vettel in 10th.

Lap 49: Lewis Hamilton overtakes Fernando Alonso at the Adelaide hairpin for 12th place. He can again set off after Nick Heidfeld, who is four further seconds up the road.

Lap 50: Kubica and Trulli are fighting over third, and perhaps second if they reach Kimi Raikkonen's ailing Ferrari.

With Trulli staying out longer, and Kubica coming out directly behind Vettel, it is looking good for the Toyota.

Lap 50: Sebastien Bourdais has pitted for the second time from the 14th position. He had pulled out a lead of 2.7 seconds over the Williams before the stop. Nakajima however will be stopping later than the Toro Rosso and the battle between these two is sure to continue.

Heikki Kovalainen puts a lap on Bourdais, hurting the Frenchman's progress as he gets up to speed after that second stop.

Lap 51: Kimi Raikkonen's pace has improved to the low 1:18s and this has slowed Trulli's rate of closure. The gap is now 19.4 seconds in the fight for second.

Lap 51: Both Mark Webber and Timo Glock pit from the top ten and fuel to the finish.

Lap 51: Sebastian Vettel and Nick Heidfeld have pitted together in a race for position. Vettel keeps the position and maintains a 2.8 second lead over the BMW.

Not only is this great driving by Vettel, the team are matching his effort with excellent pitwork.

Lap 52: Jarno Trulli pits for a crucial stop. He rejoins with the soft rubber and is fourth on the road.

Lap 53: Tracking the race-long battle between Bourdais and Nakajima.

Kazuki has yet to pit for the second time, and currently has a 22 second lead over Bourdais who now runs to the end of the race.

Lap 53: Raikkonen pits the Ferrari. They take a look at the damaged exhaust but do little to help the car and it sounds rough on the pull out of the pits.

Lap 55: A spurt of quick laps by Heikki Kovalainen has put him out from his final stop ahead of Kubica's BMW.

Lap 55: Adrian Sutil is in trouble and dropping back sharply from the group he was racing with. His last lap was a 1:23.622.

He is still in 19th position but 30 seconds behind Bourdais. Sutil's next lap is faster, but is only a 1:19.9. He looks to have some minor issue with that car.

Lap 55: The autosport.com team in Magny Cours report rain falling in the pit lane.

Lap 56: Sebastien Bourdais runs wide at Estoril and loses three seconds on the last lap. He continues but hands the advantage to Nakajima in their personal battle.

Lap 57: Felipe Massa continues to lead in the Ferrari by 13.4 seconds over teammate Kimi Raikkonen, driving around problems with his Ferrari.

Lap 57: Lewis Hamilton had climbed as high as seventh during the second round of regular pitstops. He rejoined in 12th place, and immediately set about and passed Sebastian Vettel for 11th.

Lap 57: As spits of rain continue to fall, the official weather forecast is for light rain over the next 30 minutes.

Lap 57: Hamilton's next challenge is to pass the Toyota of Timo Glock, who runs in tenth. The gap between them is less than a second.

Lap 59: The pace is falling away as the shower continues to dampen the track surface.

Lap 59: Rubens Barrichello pits from 15th place. He had a lead of 22 second over Nico Rosberg in 16th, and the Brazilian has kept the position.

Lap 59: Umbrellas are being deployed in the crowd with a dramatic conclusion to the race now in prospect.

Lap 59: Lewis Hamilton has passed Timo Glock for 10th place on the run down to the Adelaide hairpin, as the light rain continues to fall.

Lap 60: Jarno Trulli is still 20 seconds behind Kimi Raikkonen in third and has no chance of catching the Ferrari if Kimi maintains his current pace.

Lap 60: Trulli has a fight on his hands for that third place with both Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren and Robert Kubica's BMW right on his tail.

Lap 60: Kazuki Nakajima pits from 14th place for the second time. He had extended the gap to 27 seconds over Bourdais, but in recent laps the Frenchman was running over a second per lap quicker.

Nakajima rejoins and takes the position away from the Toro Rosso. Kazuki emerges with a two second lead over Bourdais.

Lap 61: The light shower is now easing off.

Lap 61: David Coulthard in ninth has Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Sebastian Vettel swarming all round him in an excellent four-car battle that rages down the order.

Lap 63: Nakajima also emerged from his pitstop ahead of Rosberg.

Nakajima 15th
Rosberg 16th
Bourdais 17th.

The gap between Nakajima and Bourdais is now 6.1 seconds.

Lap 63: Trulli's Toyota is under immense pressure for the final podium place and Kovalainen is looking for a place to overtake.

Lap 64: The Coulthard-Hamilton-Glock-Vettel battle for ninth continues on the circuit, with the gaps between them all opening up slightly now.

Lap 64: The errant piece of exhaust on Raikkonen's Ferrari has fallen off the car. Kimi continues to drive around the problem and has no threat for his second place if he can keep up this speed to the end.

Lap 65: Kazuki Nakajima in 15th is now running much slower on the circuit as Nico Rosberg has caught him very quickly.

Nakajima's last laptime was a 1:21.565, and Bourdais is now just 3.5 seconds behind the pair of them.

Lap 66: Felipe Massa leads by 17.6 seconds over teammate Raikkonen and is within five laps of winning the French Grand Prix.

Lap 66: We have been tracking Sebastian Vetel's progress during the race. Having jumped Nick Heidfeld at the first pitstop, he has maintained the advantage over his fellow-German. The pair continue the fight for 12th but the gap is hovering around 4 seconds, with Vettel driving hard but able to keep the BMW at arms' length.

Lap 67: Heikki Kovalainen continues to follow Trulli's Toyota but Jarno is driving well and has held off the Finn so far.

Lap 69: David Coulthard is maintaining a one second buffer over Lewis Hamilton in tenth. The Red Bull driver looks to have control of the situation. Both have now drawn clear of Timo Glock in 11th, who in turn still has Sebastian Vettel all over the back of him.

Lap 69: Robert Kubica has fallen away slightly from the scrap between Trulli and Kovalainen, allowing the pair to continue their battle over third.

Lap 70: Sebastien Bourdais is pushing extremely hard to try and catch Nakajima and Rosberg ahead of him. The three of them are together on the track battling for 15th.

Lap 70: Heikki Kovalainen attempts a daring move into the fast Imola chicane but is forced to back out as Trulli defends his line.

Lap 70: Felipe Massa comes through the Complex de Lycee and the Brazilian takes victory in the 2008 French Grand Prix at Magny Cours!

13:35 Kimi Raikkonen nurses home his Ferrari to take second.

13:36 Jarno Trulli holds off Heikki Kovalainen for the final podium slot in a strong drive by both men.

13:36 Robert Kubica comes through in fifth just behind the podium battle, with Webber sixth after a gritty drive, Piquet seventh after overtaking Alonso on the penultimate lap - the Spaniard taking the last point in eighth.

13:37 Felipe Massa now leads the driver's championship by two points over Robert Kubica, with Lewis Hamilton failing to score and dropping to ten points behind the leader.

13:38 Felipe Massa jumps out of his car in Parc Ferme and celebrates his win with the Ferrari team.

13:39 David Coulthard ended up ninth, comfortably holding off Lewis Hamilton in the final stint of the race. Lewis tenth after a disasterous day.

Timo Glock finished 11th with the hero of the day Sebastian Vettel just 0.3s back in 12th. Vettel's excellent drive today ended with him just 13 seconds away from the points.

13:41 Kazuki Nakajima held on for 15th in the end, with Rosberg 0.6s behind him and Bourdais a further 0.6s back.

Bourdais ends up in what looks like a slow 17th place, but he has actually driven very well and his race-long battle with Nakajima is certainly one of the highlights of the event.

13:41 The Toyota team are jubilant as Jarno Trulli scores a fantastic third place.

This is remarkable result for the team, as they mourn the loss of former team boss Ove Andersson.

13:42 Today's winner Felipe Massa steps up onto the top step of the podium as the Brazilian national anthem rings out over Magny Cours.

13:42 The Italian national anthem plays for dominant winners, Ferrari.

13:44 Felipe Massa punches the air with delight after winning the French Grand Prix. He recieves the victor's trophy and leaps off the top step in joy.

13:44 Raikkonen takes his trophy for second.

While Kimi will be disappointed to lose the win, it was an incredible drive to finish at all.

Shots of Raikkonen's Ferrari in parc ferme show the damaged exhaust has burned away at the bodywork. He was extremely fortunate that no critical wiring became overwhelmed by the heat.

13:45 Jarno Trulli takes his prize for a sensational third as the champagne sprays.

13:47 Matt Beer has the round up on an eventful French Grand Prix:

Massa leads dominant Ferrari 1-2 in France

"Our opinion is he (Lewis) was past the car (Vettel) and if there is no room on the circuit, if you are squeezed, you've got no choice but to go off the circuit, but there's not much we can do about it now."
Ron Dennis on German broadcaster Premiere

"We broke an exhaust, around mid way through the race, and that lost us a lot of power so we were just struggling in a straight line. From that point on we were really only thinking about trying to make sure we got home with second place, because there was no way to keep ahead of Felipe.

Some of our competitors made some big mistakes, so we are very fortunate to have such a problem with the car and still manage to come home with eight points."
Raikkonen's engineer Chris Dyer on German broadcaster Premiere

13:56 Magny Cours has this year delivered one of its better, more entertaining races, than recent years.

At the front, Ferrari dominated almost without challenge, except for a a mangable problem with Raikkonen's exhaust. Down the field, however, the racing was nothing short of excellent, with many battles for position taking place away from the top placings.

Toyota and Toro Rosso will be pleased with much better performances this weekend, as will Nelson Piquet - who, with that seventh place finish, scores his first points of the season.

BMW Sauber and Honda will be disappointed though. Neither team showed good pace throughout the weekend and that showed in the race as all four cars struggled. Robert Kubica came home in fifth, with those points keeping him only two behind the championship leader.

As for the season, and where we go from here, Ferrari now look very strong again, and with Silverstone coming up next, the chances are that they will be extremely hard to beat there as well. Lewis Hamilton will come home and face another tough challenge at the British circuit.

This was the French Grand Prix weekend on autosport.com Live. We hope that you have enjoyed the coverage throughout the weekend, and our next event will be the British Grand Prix from Silverstone in two weeks' time.

  OVERVIEW FRENCH GRAND PRIX  
Race Length: 70 laps
 View official live timing
  CURRENT WEATHER
Overcast High Temp: 26°C / 79°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 16 Jun Start GMT
 Weather Forecasts and Reports 15:00
Friday 20 Jun
 Friday Practice 07:30
Saturday 21 Jun
 Final Practice and Qualifying 08:30
Sunday 22 Jun
 Raceday at Magny Cours 08:00
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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