Fernando Alonso did his best to show that his victory at Silverstone was no fluke - and certainly not the result of uncertainty over diffusers and engine maps - as he set the pace in opening practice for the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring

The Spaniard hit the top of the timesheets two-thirds of the way through the 90-minute session and remained there to the end, knocking small margins from his best time all the while, before ending the morning with a 1min 31.894secs best. That was enough to put the Ferrari driver three-tenths of a second clear of his nearest rivals which, as at the British race two weeks ago, were the two Red Bull runners, although Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were reversed in order and split by just 0.051secs.

All three drivers set their best lap on Pirelli's latest soft compound tyre - as did the majority of the field - and were comfortably ahead of four-placed Felipe Massa, who lapped in 1min 32.681secs to be the last man under a second shy of his team-mate. McLaren colleagues Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were next up, their cars resplendent in an added hue of flo-vis paint as the team attempts to get a handle on its aero deficiencies. Like many others, however, the two Britons did not find their MP4-26 responding well to the typically chill Nurburgring conditions and were 1.2 and 1.7secs off Alonso's pace respectively.

Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher added four more Mercedes-powered cars to the top ten on home soil, as the Three-Pointed Star sandwiched the Force India duo within a tenth of each other, while eleventh-placed Vitaly Petrov was the best Renault factory car in the session, but fully two seconds off the pace as the Enstone team attempted to get the best from its revised exhaust system.

Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi, freed of the pressure of having Daniel Ricciardo looking over their shoulders, were next up in twelfth and 13th respectively, but another second from Alonso. Buemi also ended his session in the turn five gravel trap after an aerial trip prompted by putting a wheel off the road and exacerbated by the mounded trap.

Schumacher also bounced through the gravel - finding time to wave to his fans as he negotiated a way out - while others, including Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen both found the dirt at the edge of the road. More still struggled to find the limits at turn one, with Sauber rookie Sergio Perez a notable repeat offender.

The Mexican ended the session down in 16th, behind Rubens Barrichello (Williams) and Nick Heidfeld (Renault), but half a second clear of Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, who had Kovalainen and the second Williams of Pastor Maldonado between them.

With Kovalainen again the best of the expected backmarkers in 17th, India picked up the baton with Narain Karthikeyan, acting at HRT's reserve this weekend, and Karun Chandhok, in a rare race outing in Jarno Trulli's Lotus, ending the morning ahead of Ricciardo and the two Virgins of Timo Glock and Jerome d'Ambrosio, which failed to break the 1min 40secs barrier.


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