Anyone hoping for a change of scene in this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix
will have been encouraged by the opening day's practice results, which saw Fernando Alonso
leading a non-Red Bull top four.
Although Sebastian Vettel
had topped the day's opening session, and lurked menacingly in fifth place overall, Ferrari, McLaren
and Mercedes will all take heart from the fact that they finished ahead of the German, and troubled team-mate Mark Webber, as they prepared for the most tricky round of the championship in almost perfect weather conditions.
Alonso had challenged for top spot in the first 90-minute F1 outing, only to be toppled by Vettel in the closing stages, but this time made sure of remaining in first position with a lap in 1min 15.123secs. The margin was still slight, however, with Lewis Hamilton
pressuring his nemesis right to the flag, one of six drivers to break into the 1min 15s during the session.
Alonso, sporting a new gold-and-white version of his helmet in aid of charity this weekend, was also closely pursued by Nico Rosberg, who backed up third in FP1 with a similar result second time around, Jenson Button, Vettel and Ferrari
team-mate Felipe Massa, all of whom got to within seven-tenths of his benchmark. Michael Schumacher, recovering from an off at Ste Devote in session one, and the second Red Bull
of Mark Webber, who failed to complete a flying lap due to gearbox woes during the morning, were next up, but the first of those over a second adrift of Alonso's pace.
Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld
kept Force India
in the top ten, with the latter's Russian team-mate, Vitaly Petrov eleventh despite an incident at the exit of the tunnel that removed his front wing and ensured that the session ended with a whimper under yellow flags. Sergio Perez, Rubens Barrichello, Sebastien Buemi
and Pastor Maldonado
rounded out the top 15. The second Force India
of Paul di Resta made some progress after a circumspect opening session, but could still only manage 20th spot after being hampered by gear selection problems.
Once again, only 23 runners recorded times in the session, with HRT's Tonio Liuzzi the man to miss out following his wall-banging effort in FP1. The Italian duly propped up the timesheets, with team-mate Narain Karthikeyan still some way off matching the performance of the two Marussia Virgin cars ahead of him.
Friday is a traditional rest day for the F1 fraternity, with the final hour of free practice, and then qualifying, taking place on Saturday as usual.