Fernando Alonso led the way in the opening practice session for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, the fifth and arguably the most famous round in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The Spaniard went top two thirds of the way through the 90-minute session, when he posted a 1 minute 16.973 second lap - the only driver to break the 1min 17sec bracket.

Up until that point he had been behind his McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, however once he bolted on a set of the Bridgestone super soft tyres it made a big difference and he jumped up to P1. Following his quick lap though his pace dropped off rapidly, giving a clear indication that the harder of the two tyres available is the more consistent choice, at least at this stage.

Hamilton meanwhile, who did not run with the super soft tyres and who had some mechanical issues towards the end of FP1, was only one hundredth up on the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld. Heidfeld, like Alonso, posted his best time while running with the super soft tyres, he managed a 1m 17.616s, while Lewis did a 1m 17.601s.

Giancarlo Fisichella was next up in fourth, a tenth of so further back. The Italian ended the session over 1.5 seconds up on his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen, however it wasn't all good. Indeed with less than 4 minutes to go he went off at turn 1 and hit the wall, ending his session prematurely.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Ferrari, with Felipe Massa eighth in the sister F2007. The team once again getting off to a slow start, a bit like they did in Spain two weeks ago. Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and Williams' Nico Rosberg split the two Ferraris, in sixth and seventh respectively, although the gap between the four of them was less than three tenths.

Robert Kubica was ninth on a 1min 18.675secs, a second off his team-mate and only one thousandth up on Rubens Barrichello, who completed the top ten for Honda.

Of the rest, Alex Wurz and Scott Speed came in eleventh and twelfth for Williams and Toro Rosso, while David Coulthard had to settle for 13th, his best effort a 1m 19.095s.

Takuma Sato was a tenth slower in 14th, the Japanese driver still on a high following his eighth place finish in Spain, a result that gave the Super Aguri team its first ever championship point.

Vitantonio Liuzzi and Heikki Kovalainen both seemed to struggle, and the former was in and out of the garage a lot in the first part of the session. Indeed Liuzzi only posted his first time 58 minutes in.

Jenson Button was a disappointing 17th, half a second off Barrichello in the other RA106, while Anthony Davidson was 18th, followed by Toyota duo Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher.

The Spyker F1 team brought up the rear with Adrian Sutil's best effort a 1m 21.634s, over 4 seconds off the pace. Christijan Albers was dead-last on a 1m 23.235s, however he stopped out on track around 25 minutes into proceedings, something that brought out the one and only red flag, delaying running for 4 minutes.

The second 90-minute practice session now gets underway at 13.00 British time.



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