Fernando Alonso shrugged off his disappointing run in the Canadian Grand Prix to top the times in opening practice for this weekend's race across the border at Indianapolis.

Despite never having enjoyed running at the Brickyard's road course, and using fewer laps than his rivals, the Spaniard comfortably topped the morning times, lapping nearly half a second quicker than BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and seven-tenths clear of upstart team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Heidfeld revelled in splitting the two McLarens as BMW Sauber proved itself to be the Woking team's closest challenger in the first 90 minutes of action, with his second spot helping to create an alternating pattern with the silver machines and rookie team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who showed that he could be an able replacement for the still not fit Robert Kubica. The younger German, still only 19, was just a couple of tenths off Hamilton as both set about learning the American circuit, and completed 33 laps of preparation - not dissimilar to the sort of track time he enjoyed as the team's third driver earlier in the year.

Ferrari again appeared to be some way off McLaren's pace, with Kimi Raikkonen taking only fifth spot, two ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, with Williams' Nico Rosberg filling the void between them. Raikkonen was over a second off Alonso, but used only the harder of the two Bridgestone options on hand, while those ahead of him tried both compounds on offer.

David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Mark Webber completed the top ten for Red Bull Racing, Honda and Red Bull respectively, giving all three hope for the rest of the weekend. Honda's joy, however, will have been tempered by Rubens Barrichello's 18th position.

Vettel's 33-lap haul was threatened only by Jarno Trulli, who completed 32 tours as he attempted to get a handle on Toyota's TF107, the Italian eventually placing eleventh, a tenth shy of Webber. Under-fire team-mate Ralf Schumacher was 13th, the two white-and-red cars divided by Kazuki Nakajima, who replaced Montreal podium visitor Alex Wurz in the second Williams for the session.

Renault was surprisingly off the pace given recent improvements, with Giancarlo Fisichella only 16th and circuit rookie Heikki Kovalainen three places further back. That allowed the two Toro Rossos to appear higher up the order than expected, in 14th and 15th, while Takuma Sato joined Barrichello in slipping between the two ING-backed cars.

As expected, the two Spykers brought up the rear, with Adrian Sutil again blotting his copybook by spinning off and failing to finish the session.

 

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