McLaren's Fernando Alonso maintained his dominance in second free practice for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, as he made it very clear to team-mate Lewis Hamilton that the young Brit will have to work harder than ever if he is to beat him come race day.

It was Mark Webber who made all the early running, though, building on a promising first session that had seen the Australian launch himself up the timesheets to fifth position right at the close.

As the times tumbled from the word go in the afternoon, it was the Red Bull star who hit the top, and incredibly he would remain there for a full half hour, despite the best efforts of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso et al to dislodge him. Indeed, after the former closed to within a tenth of him Webber went even quicker, shaving a further four tenths off his time, though it all very nearly ended in tears as he came perilously close to clouting 'Champions' Wall' on his way to achieving it.

It was ultimately Alonso who displaced Webber, as the reigning double world champion lopped a massive eight tenths of a second off the 30-year-old's time, and with Hamilton following suit just minutes later by popping his McLaren up to second place, battle between the two Silver Arrows was very much rejoined.

The Ferraris, for their part, lay fourth (Kimi Raikonen) and sixth (Felipe Massa) after the opening 40 minutes, though both were more than a second away from Alonso's lightning pace. Massa was one of many drivers to take the scenic route during the early part of proceedings, in tandem with Alex Wurz, Scott Speed and Takuma Sato, while Robert Kubica got the power down too quickly on the exit of turn nine and performed a spectacular 360 that so very nearly saw the Pole kiss the wall with his left rear wheel.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli was rather less fortunate, with his front right wheel all askew following a right front upright failure. That, though, was getting away with it lightly by comparison with Heikki Kovalainen, who drifted wide on the exit of turn seven and re-arranged the front left wheel of his Renault as sparks flew in the impact and waved yellow flags flew.

Notable performances early on included Rubens Barrichello in fourth, the Brazilian no doubt keen to recover from a dismal morning session during which he had struggled to a lowly 18th place, and Scuderia Toro Rosso's Vitantonio Liuzzi, who split the Ferraris up in fifth spot. With team-mate Scott Speed in ninth just a tenth of a second further adrift, it was substantially STR's most positive showing of the season to date.

Over in the sister Red Bull camp, meanwhile, David Coulthard was proving unable to get anywhere near team-mate Webber's pace, and though he hauled his RB3 up to twelfth place just over halfway through, that was still more than a second slower than the number 15 car.

Ferrari, too, seemed to have little to offer against McLaren's scintillating pace, with even Kimi Raikkonen's 110 per cent commitment unable to make the difference. Indeed, the Finn was giving away a full half second to Alonso in the final sector alone as the scarlet machines languished down in fourth and sixth spots.

With little over half an hour to go, Alonso lowered the benchmark yet again, with a stunning effort almost eight tenths up on his previous best and more than a second clear of anyone else. The gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down.

As Nick Heidfeld bumped Webber down to fourth, Nico Rosberg - who had missed the morning practice in favour of Williams test-driver Kazuki Nakajima - leapt up to seventh with a strong lap, while further down the order Spyker's Adrian Sutil fairly hammered the kerbs into the final chicane and was lucky not to have an impromptu meeting with 'Champions' Wall' for his trouble.

A good effort from Giancarlo Fisichella promoted the Italian to fifth on a circuit he clearly enjoys, though that was still more than a second-and-a-half shy of Alonso's incredible performance, albeit only two tenths adrift of the two Ferraris. Raikkonen did little to aid his cause with a spin at turn six, while Sato did likewise just minutes later into the hairpin.

The impressive Heidfeld next jumped above both Ferraris up into third spot, with Fisichella and Webber also demoting an increasingly scrappy Raikkonen down to seventh. Kubica exited the pits once more with just under 20 minutes to go, as the BMW-Sauber ace set about atoning for his earlier misdemeanour, but up front nobody could hold a candle to Alonso, who remained more than a second clear of the entire field in an utterly peerless display of dominance at a circuit that has not always shone kindly upon him.

A sterling effort from Rosberg with just 15 minutes to go vaulted the Williams pilot up to fourth place, while Trulli's bad luck continued as his repaired right front wheel again came a cropper over one of Montreal's kerbs, ensuring the Italian's second slow drive back to the pits of the session.

Although a traffic-plagued Hamilton would eventually close to just over three quarters of a second of Alonso, and a late volley from Massa broke the McLaren stranglehold at the front, it did nothing to hide a flawless showing from the Spaniard, who will head into qualifying on Saturday brimful of confidence and clearly intent on repeating his Monte Carlo pole position.

The 25-year-old's final advantage stood at just over half a second over Massa, with Hamilton third, Raikkonen heading off-piste once again but recovering to post the fourth-fastest time, Heidfeld fifth, Rosberg an excellent sixth, Barrichello a far more encouraging seventh, Fisichella eighth, long-time pace-setter Webber ninth and Sato making it a good day for Super Aguri by rounding out the top ten.

Coulthard ended up eleventh, ahead of Kubica, Jenson Button, Liuzzi, Anthony Davidson, Speed, Wurz, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher - the Toyotas displaying none of their earlier pace as they languished well down the pack - with the Spyker duo of Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil and the embattled Kovalainen bringing up the rear.

To see the second session times in full, Click Here

 

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