What's da Matta doing there?

Last updated at 15:36 02 July 2004

Cristiano da Matta left it late to take top spot in second practice for the French Grand Prix after a day interrupted by bad weather.

Jarno Trulli had looked certain to be the fastest man from the session after rain came just after his best lap but da Matta waited until the last seconds to better his effort.

The Brazilian's time of one minute 15.518seconds was 0.688secs quicker than Monaco Grand Prix winner Trulli.

Like da Matta, BAR test driver Anthony Davidson waited until the end of the session to clock his best effort and took third spot.

Button - second when the rain returned - was bumped down to fourth place in his BAR.

World champion Michael Schumacher recorded exactly the same time as Button but had to make do with fifth as he set his lap after the Englishman.

Scotland's David Coulthard gave the new McLaren an encouraging debut with seventh place, less than a second down on da Matta despite setting his time on a damper track.

Schumacher replacement

Marc Gene, who is standing in for the injured Ralf Schumacher at Williams, recorded more laps than any other race driver with the best of his 17 efforts putting him 14th.

Davidson set the early standard on a drying circuit after showers this morning with the top teams' regular race drivers preferring to wait until late in the session to hit the track.

Lap times fell as the track dried and Gene took top spot as he clocked up plenty of laps in a rare competitive session for the Spanish test driver.

Button's first serious effort of the day - after half an hour of second practice - sent him to the top of the timing sheets before Kimi Raikkonen suffered a scary moment in his new McLaren.

The Finn lost the back end of his car at speed but regained control and ran harmlessly wide.

Trulli just had time to better Button's time before the rain returned and slowed the cars up again, abating just in time for da Matta and Davidson to improve.

Today's first practice was rendered largely irrelevant after rain early in the one-hour session hampered any attempts to set quick times.

The drama was restricted to Juan Pablo Montoya's hefty accident after half an hour.

Montoya was one of the few front-runners to go out on the wet track and he quickly came a cropper, losing control of his Williams under braking and bouncing at high speed through a gravel trap.

Montoya was fortunate not to roll over after flying through the air and digging into the wet gravel. His car eventually thudded to a halt with three of its four corners showing considerable damage.

Rubens Barrichello took top spot with what turned out to be the fastest time of the day, one minute 15.487secs. Ferrari team-mate Schumacher was a quarter of a second behind with Gene third quickest, almost four seconds down.

The Jordan trio of tester Timo Glock, Giorgio Pantano and Nick Heidfeld were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively after benefiting from their decision to hit the track early.

The rest of the grid never got a fast lap in before the showers started.

Button was down in 11th for BAR over 12 seconds down after just one quick lap while Coulthard never even completed a full lap in his McLaren.

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