Practice specialist Nico Rosberg topped the morning session as Mercedes GP once again proved more than capable of impressing on a Friday – it’s qualifying and the race (the bits that count) that they’re not yet perfected. Nico topped the times ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and the second Merc of Michael Schumacher.

But the big story of the session was Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull man is now officially a world champion, having taken the traditional trip in to the wall on the exit of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s final corner. The German overcooked it entering the chicane as the session ticked in to its final half an hour, but was able to climb from the car unaided.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTDysWzfPK4

Elsewhere Felipe Massa was fourth ahead of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in the McLarens. Rubens Barrichello enjoyed a storng session to take seventh as the raft of updates on the Williams car appeared to pay dividends in Canada. The impressive Paul di Resta, Renault’s Nick Heidfeld and Force India third driver Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten.

Between the sessions Sauber’s Sergio Perez became ill, still yet to fully recover from his monster shunt last time out in Monaco, and subsequently withdrew from the event. The Swiss outfit were left with minimal time to find a replacement for the Mexican, eventually collaring Pedro de la Rosa – who, don’t forget, the team fired less than a year ago – and strapping him in to the car.

“I was finishing lunch when [Sauber CEO] Monisha Kaltenborn showed up at McLaren and asked me, ‘are you ready? It’s very likely you will have to get in the car’,” said de la Rosa. “I checked my watch and it was ten to two and I said ‘but there’s 10 minutes to the start of the session!'”

Pedro got it together, just, and made it out. It was later revealed that he was aware before the weekend that he may be called upon to replace Perez, so it wasn’t quite the mad rush we thought it was at the time.

As Pedro was acquainting himself with the Sauber it was his countryman Alonso who was topping the timesheets, moving in to P1 at around the halfway point of the session. His time of 1.15.107 was four tenths faster than the nearest challenger.

And would you believe it, that was Vettel, who recovered from his morning shunt to be right amongst the pacesetters in the afternoon. Not that anyone was at all surprised.

Third was Massa, who was extremely pleased with his Friday performance, with the McLarens of Hamilton andButton completing the top five. Di Resta was a seriously impressive sixth, ahead of Mark Webber, with the Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Heidfeld and the improving Williams of Barrichello tenth.

The session was cut short by a number of red flags, each of which took valuable tracktime from the drivers. First Kamui Kobayashi compounded Sauber’s miserable Friday by crashing at the first chicane, ending his day. Then, just moments after the track went green, Jerome D’Ambrosio shunted at the same corner. Adrian Sutil would also end up in the wall during FP2.

After the session Alonso remained cool on his chances of pole, admitting that he still sees Vettel as favourite for the box seat on Sunday’s grid. “We also topped the practice in Monaco and then in qualifying Vettel was one second quicker than us – we know tomorrow is the day to put everything into it and we know Red Bull will be very strong and probably the favourite,” said the Spaniard.

That said the possibility of a non-Red Bull car taking pole for the first time this season looks realistic. If they can’t be beaten here the others might as well pack up and go home.