Felipe Massa picked up in Spa from where he had left off in Spain two weekends ago as he comfortably paced the opening free practice session ahead of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

The Brazilian waited a little while before vaulting to head of the times, but remained a fixture in P1 throughout the remainder of the 90-minute session, eventually posting a 1min 47.284secs effort that put him three tenths clear of the rest of the field in a dry session.

The Brazilian's closest opposition came from within the Ferrari enclave, as Kimi Raikkonen attempted to banish the poor form that has dogged his recent outings. The Finn got to within 0.339secs of his team-mate as Ferrari started strongly, leaving title rivals McLaren to fight over third and fourth.

That battle eventually went Lewis Hamilton's way, the current points leader edging team-mate Heikki Kovalainen by less than a tenth as the expected top four runners all endured trouble-free sessions. They were the only ones to break into the 1min 47s, although fifth-placed Fernando Alonso came close to joining them, lapping in 1min 48.104secs.

The Spaniard, who has hinted that he will be chasing a podium this weekend, enjoyed a similarly comfortable gap over Mark Webber and those behind him as Massa did over the field as a whole, but the Red Bull driver will no doubt be happy to see two Renault-powered cars in the top ten after a disastrous weekend in Valencia that suggested the French marque had been left behind.

Ferrari, however, managed to get four of its six machines into the top half of the timesheet, as Toro Rosso duo Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel again broke into the leading group, claiming seventh and eighth respectively.

BMW Sauber, meanwhile, had to wait until tenth place to find one of its drivers, with Robert Kubica lapping fractionally faster than team-mate Nick Heidfeld, while both trailed the best of the Toyotas, driven by Timo Glock, and failed to break into the 1min 48s. Jarno Trulli, meanwhile, was down in 14th, one place ahead of David Coulthard, the Scot making his last appearance at a track that has provided him with more than a few memorable moments over the years.

Right at the back, Force India's latest revisions, including the new seamless shift gearbox, began to show potential, with both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil moving ahead of the Hondas, with the second Williams of rookie Kazuki Nakajima sandwiched between them. Jenson Button was 19th of the 20 runners, having seen a marginally faster lap which would have pushed him above Sutil and Nakajima, ruled out for cutting part of the Bus Stop.