Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso set the pace in Friday's second practice session. Reuters

Fernando Alonso headed a tightly-packed field in Friday’s practice ahead of qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. The Ferrari driver was just 0.012 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the second practice session, with Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel all within half a second of Alonso’s time. The first session had been run in the wet with damp conditions persistent throughout the day, making it difficult to get a proper gage on performances.

Still, after a disappointing Monaco Grand Prix, the signs looked good that the upgrades that Ferrari have brought to Montreal -- including a new front wing -- were paying dividends. Alonso, though, was not getting carried away.

“It was an untypical Friday, affected by the extremely changeable weather,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “We didn’t manage to complete our program because the track was wet in the morning and so only tomorrow will we find out if the updates we tested here produce a real performance evolution.”

Alonso now trails Vettel in the drivers’ standings by 29 points and when under race conditions the signs were that Red Bull is going to be strong this weekend. Vettel could have gone better on the timesheets had he not been held up on one of his quick runs.

“It was tricky this morning with the wet weather, but fortunately in the afternoon we had some dry conditions,” Vettel explained. “It was quite slippery, with low grip at the end. The dominating factor was the weather today and we’re not sure what’s going to tomorrow, but we’re happy with where we are.”

Mercedes have dominated practice and qualifying in recent races, but, after their first win of the season courtesy of Rosberg in Monaco, they look some way short of doing that this weekend. And Hamilton, while feeling confident, admitted that he was still trying to get to grips with the car.

“The car feels pretty good and I feel like I'm pretty on it this weekend," he said, according to Sky Sports. "I wouldn't say it's a big step forward. I still don't feel right in the car for some reason. I don't know if it's my seat. Today I was doing my belts up really tight, which I never do."

Where to watch: Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix will get underway at 1 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.