Fernando Alonso picked up where he had left off in Monaco during opening practice at Montreal ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, by dominating proceedings as McLaren-Mercedes once again hit Ferrari with the old one-two.

With a number of drivers choosing to go out straightaway in order to undertake exploratory laps of what was initially an extremely green circuit, it was Kazuki Nakajima - in for Nico Rosberg at Williams - who was the first to blink and set the first truly representative time. Scuderia Toro Rosso's Scott Speed went quicker but was almost immediately put back in his place again by the Japanese GP2 ace.

It was next the turn of Toyota to show their hand, as Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli slotted themselves neatly in at the head of the timing screens and Ferrari played a waiting game, with neither Felipe Massa nor Kimi Raikkonen venturing out for the first third of the one-and-a-half hour session.

When the two scarlet machines did finally put in an appearance, both drivers were clearly pushing hard as the team strives to close the gap at the top of the constructors' table to arch-rival McLaren, now some 20 points clear. Massa went briefly off-piste at turn eight, with Raikkonen coming close to losing it into turn two just seconds later.

These minor interruptions did little to hinder Maranello's dominance, though, as both went more than a second clear of anyone else, with Raikkonen holding a scant three hundredths of a second advantage over his Brazilian team-mate. That, of course, was until Lewis Hamilton put in an appearance.

Determined to make his mark on his maiden visit to the challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the young Brit pushed the Ferraris down the order by the narrowest margin of just eight hundredths of a second with half the session left. Team-mate Alonso, meanwhile, continued to play it cool, sitting calmly in his garage until there remained only 35 minutes of the session to complete.

Like both Ferrari drivers and Hamilton, Alonso had his own grass-cutting moment, skating across the green stuff into turn nine on his out-lap. On only his second flying lap, though, the Spaniard showed he meant serious business, reminding everyone just why he is the reigning double world champion by outpacing his team-mate throughout the opening two sectors. Although he would ultimately fall just short in the third, it was nevertheless enough to make it an all-silver one-two with 30 minutes left to run.

Before much longer, Alonso had displaced Hamilton from P1 with just seven hundredths separating the McLaren pairing, but on his next lap he went a full three tenths clear to become the first driver to crack the 1min 18secs barrier, and suddenly it was up to Hamilton to fight back in their internecine duel. The Ferraris certainly seemed to have no answer to Alonso's time, and though Hamilton continued to chip away at it, he was unable to get within two tenths.

Mark Webber came agonisingly close to touching the wall, while team-mate David Coulthard also explored the turn one grass, as did Trulli and Massa for a second time. Indeed, Coulthard and Massa in particular seemed to take somewhat of a liking to the scenic route through turns one and two as the session wore on.

With just eight minutes to go Alonso embarked on his final run, though he failed to improve upon his previous best and came perilously close to re-arranging his McLaren by almost slamming it into 'Champions' Wall' at the end of the lap. Former team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile - considered something of a Montreal specialist on the back of a strong run of form here in past years - popped his Renault up into fifth place, with Heikki Kovalainen just two spots further back seeming to confirm the R?gie's Monaco improvement.

Speed was a late session surprise, shooting up to seventh position in his STR with less than five minutes to go, and though he would subsequently be pipped by a number of other drivers there was no shame in that, and it was nevertheless a particularly fine effort as the American bids to build on his strong showing last time out in Monte Carlo.

With little changing at the top of the order, Alonso ended the session just over two tenths of a second clear of Hamilton, with Raikkonen and Massa closely-matched behind in third and fourth, albeit some four tenths shy of the fastest time.

Webber saved his best till last by popping up into fifth place in his Red Bull Racing machine courtesy of an excellent effort right at the close, just over half a second away from the pace-setter. Fisichella was sixth, the consistent Heidfeld seventh, Schumacher an encouraging eighth as the rumours persist he has just two grands prix left to save his Formula 1 career, Coulthard made it two RBRs inside the top ten in ninth and Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato set almost identical times in tenth and eleventh.

Trulli eventually wound up twelfth, ahead of Jenson Button, Kovalainen - who was edged down the field as others made last-minute improvements - Alex Wurz, Speed, Nakajima and a low-key Rubens Barrichello, as Honda struggled to maintain their Monaco improvement. Just 1.5 seconds covered the top 17 drivers at the close, which augurs well for a close qualifying session and race.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christijan Albers, Adrian Sutil and the non-showing Robert Kubica - who spent nearly the entire session in the garage - brought up the rear.

The second 90-minute practice session will begin at 19:00 British time.

To see the first session times in full, Click Here

 

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