Following in the footsteps of champions - Vettel's nose cone meets the 'Wall of Champions' [GALLO/GETTY]

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso set the practice pace on a crash-filled Canadian Grand Prix on Friday as Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel joined a list of great drivers when he crashed into the legendary "Wall of Champions".

After losing control on the 14th turn and hitting the same wall that F1 champions Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill all left their marks on, Vettel got back out on the race finishing behind only Fernando Alonso for the fastest lap of the day.

Alonso ran his best lap at 1 minute, 15.107 seconds, and Vettel was 0.369 seconds behind. In the morning session, it was Nico Rosberg with the fastest time at 1:15.591, with Alonso 0.548 behind him and Michael Schumacher 0.958 seconds back.

Hope

Alonso's performance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve offered hope that Ferrari, without a pole since Singapore last September, might be able to take the fight to Red Bull.

"It was definitely one of our best Fridays," Alonso said.

"It doesn't happen often that we see our cars in the top five places.

"It's hard to drive in these conditions and then there are three or four places here where the slightest error sees you end up in the wall.

"In the race, I expect the safety car will play a part."

The sunny afternoon session was interrupted by several crashes with Sauber's Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio for Virgin and Force India's Adrian Sutil all causing delays when they skidded off the track into the wall.

World champion Vettel, winner of five of the season's first six races and sure to be the man to reckon with again on Sunday, damaged his Red Bull in the morning.

With 34 minutes remaining in the opening session, Vettel drifted wide coming out of the chicane into the home straight and joined a list of illustrious names to have hit the notorious wall over the years.

"It's a special circuit here,'' Vettel said.

"It's quite rough with all of the curbs and chicanes, but I like it. I had a crash this morning, and some people went off after me. So things can happen quickly here.''

McLaren driver Hamilton, who has won the Canadian GP two of the last three times, was sixth-fastest in the morning and fourth in the afternoon.

Hamilton was in Montreal after avoiding a threatened six-race ban by apologising to the sport's governing body and his fellow drivers for a series of outbursts at Monaco on May 29. 

Source: Agencies