Alonso blows away rivals

Spaniard gives Renault team cause to cheer on home-soil

Fernando Alonso impressed when setting the fastest time in the second practice session ahead of Sunday's French Grand Prix.

The Renault driver's sparkling performance meant he recorded the second quickest time of the day, with only Ferrari's Felipe Massa faster after the Brazilian had posted a time quicker than the record race lap set by Michael Schumacher in 2004 in the morning session.

It was a great turn-around for Alonso, who had suffered a blown engine in the morning session which fortunately on a Friday did not result in a penalty.

His mechanics then used the intervening 150 minutes to good effect so when the Spaniard returned to the track, he ultimately set a lap of one minute 15.778secs, just over 0.4secs adrift of Massa's morning best.

Late scare

Massa was second quickest in the afternoon with a lap of 1:15.854, and avoided a scare late on when he ran wide into the gravel at the long, sweeping right-hand curve of Estoril, just managing to miss a wall on his exit.

Ferrari team-mate and reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest, pushing Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren into fourth.

The other top drivers were Sebastian Vettel in fifth, current championship leader Robert Kubica in sixth, Heikki Kovalainen in seventh, Nick Heidfeld in eighth, Nelson Piquet in ninth and David Coulthard in tenth.

But Coulthard's fellow Brit Jenson Button struggled and was 17th in the afternoon to follow up his 18th position in the morning.