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Alonso heads McLaren one-two in first practice 24 May 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007

McLaren drew first blood in Monte Carlo on Thursday morning, as Fernando Alonso set the fastest time ahead of Lewis Hamilton in opening practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Nineteen minutes into the session Christijan Albers came to a halt at Tabac in his Spyker, having lapped thus far in 1m 23.235s. This caused the session to be red flagged for 10 minutes as the car was cleared away.

Also in the wars, at the end of it, was Giancarlo Fisichella. His Renault nosed gently into the tyre barriers at Ste Devote, possibly as the result of some sort of rear-end failure.

Alonso set the initial pace from Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, then Felipe Massa did 1m 18.537s to beat Alonso’s 1m 18.774s. The Ferraris are decked out in a new shade of red, darker than their recent Marlboro-influenced hue.

It didn’t take Lewis Hamilton long to reset the ante, improving on those times with 1m 17.601s. That remained the fastest for the rest of the hour, until Alonso recorded 1m 16.973s while Hamilton was in the pits. The championship leader did not venture out again after part of the starter motor broke and the gearbox had to be removed to facilitate repair. It will be okay for this afternoon’s session.

Behind the silver arrows, Nick Heidfeld took his BMW Sauber round in 1m 17.616s for third ahead of Fisichella (1m 17.758s) and Kimi Raikkonen (1m 17.918s) in the second Ferrari.

Mark Webber vaulted up to sixth for Red Bull with 1m 17.956s before clobbering a wall and puncturing his left rear Bridgestone. The man he displaced, Nico Rosberg, echoed the potential of the Williams in which Webber had starred here last year, with seventh-fastest time of 1m 18.074s to head Massa (1m 18.189s), BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica (1m 18.675s), Rubens Barrichello in the Honda (1m 18.676s), Alex Wurz (1m 18.869s) for Williams and Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed (1m 18.967s).

David Coulthard didn’t get below 1m 19.095s for Red Bull, leaving the former Monaco winner 13th in front of Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato (1m 19.203s), Toro Rosso’s Tonio Liuzzi (1m 19.285s), Heikki Kovalainen (who had a brief off in his Renault at Casino en route to 1m 19.321s), Honda’s Jenson Button (1m 19.332s), Anthony Davidson (1m 19.337s) in the second Super Aguri, and the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli (1m 19.496s) and Ralf Schumacher (1m 19.799s). Ahead of Albers, Adrian Sutil completed the line-up in 21st place for Spyker on 1m 21.634s.

Clearly there are several people who kept their powder dry, so we can expect some faster lappery all round this afternoon.