Red was the colour of the day as the Canadian Grand Prix got underway on Ile Notre Dame in Montreal, but not every shade was as pleasing as that which topped the timesheets in the hands of Fernando Alonso.
The Scuderia had predicted that it would not be in contention for success until the series hit Canada and, buoyed by Alonso's second place in Monaco, it appears to be on course to at least take the fight to Red Bull and McLaren again. The Spaniard had been second fastest to Mercedes' Nico Rosberg in the opening 90 minutes of action on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and moved to the top of times early in the afternoon session, where he remained unchallenged, despite his main rivals massing behind him.
In the end, Alonso's 1min 15.107secs proved to be nearly four-tenths better than anyone else could manage, but it was ominous to note that leading the pursuit was world champion Sebastian Vettel. No-one would have batten an eyelid at the German's presence in P2 had he not binned the Red Bull - appropriately against the Wall of Champions - midway through the opening session. Unlike his similar incident in Turkey, the car was only superficially damaged on its right front corner, and some serious work from both sides of the RBR garage ensured that it would be fit to rejoin the fray after lunch.
Vettel was almost immediately on the pace, but had to make do with 1 lap of 1min 15.478secs at the end of the day, narrowly edging the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, as both Prancing Horses showed signs of breaking into a gallop at last. Massa's mark was good enough to see off both McLarens, where Lewis Hamilton, the reigning Canadian GP 'champion', got the better of team-mate Jenson Button by a scant 0.012secs.
Less than a second covered the first seven cars, with rookie - and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve newcomer - Paul di Resta and Mark Webber all getting into the same bracket as the frontrunners. di Resta's performance was particularly notable as he continued to chip away at his time, but kept his nose clean at the same time.
The same could not be said of Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil, who collected the wall broadside at turn five and ended his session parked at the side of the road. While the marshals were able to push the German's car to safety, the red flags returned with a vengeance just a matter of minutes later as Kamui Kobayashi speared across the turn four chicane and clouted the wall heavily on his right-hand side. No sooner had the track been cleared, and the action resumed, than Virgin novice Jerome d'Ambrosio replicated the accident, albeit at a sharper angle, and the crane team needed another stoppage to remove the damaged car.
There was little movement on the leaderboard when the session restarted, although di Resta inched ahead of Webber and Pedro de la Rosa, drafted in at the last moment to replace the unwell Sergio Perez, vaulted from the bottom of the pile to 18th, ahead of both Mercedes, which belied their first session performance by plummeting to 19th and 20th as they worked on race preparation and, notably, attempting to combat tyre wear. Rosberg's time from FP1 was good enough to put him back into third on the combined charts, but the German ended the day nursing a sore backside after cooling issues on his Mercedes led to burns in a tender region.
His woes do not appear to be as concerning as those afflicting Perez, however, as the Mexican struggled to combat unforeseen after-effects of his Monaco qualifying shunt. Having been passed fit not only by the FIA medical team, but also by doctors in Monaco and Zurich, his symptoms caught the Sauber team off guard, and it was fortunate to be offered former employee de la Rosa by McLaren, with its own nominated reserve, Esteban Gutierrez, taking time off form his GP2 commitments in Mexico.
For the record, Vitaly Petrov, Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello rounded out the afternoon top ten, with Sutil surviving to claim eleventh, ahead of Pastor Maldonado, Toro Rosso twins Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari and the sidelined Kobayashi. Team Lotus received a welcome boost by getting both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen ahead of the two Mercedes, while Timo Glock salvaged a little Virgin pride by moving ahead of both HRT entries in the final moments of the session.
Full times can be found HERE