Hamilton confident of closing gap

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Jenson Button's pre-event prediction that the Mercedes would be very quick in Montreal proved correct, with Nico Rosberg dominating the first practice session for tomorrow's Canadian GP.

"I think they can get about 20 kmh [extra speed] with DRS, the Mercedes, and I think most other teams are about 12 kmh," the 2009 world champion had said, referring to the drag-reducing rear wings the cars use this year. "It's a massive difference around here, so they are going to be very, very quick. They are possibly our biggest competitors."

Rosberg was fastest by half a second in the first session, which saw reigning champion Sebastian Vettel get the chicane wrong and, ironically, crash his Red Bull into the area known informally as "Champions' Wall" hard enough to stop the session for six minutes. The German was unharmed, but his car was damaged.

Fernando Alonso staked his claim with the second-fastest time for Ferrari, with team-mate Felipe Massa fourth behind the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher. Button himself was fifth, just ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who cut an optimistic figure.

"I'm not sure why we are so quick here, but our car is always good over kerbs," Hamilton said. "We've got reasonable high speeds and end-of-straight speed and I guess you have got to be quite close to the walls here, which I particularly like doing."

While he doesn't want to be considered the pre-race favourite, he admitted that Canada should suit McLaren perfectly. "I'd like to think this is our best chance to beat the Red Bulls," he said.

"But again they have been fast at every circuit. I think they have been incredibly successful on all the circuits so far, so you have to assume that they will be very quick here. But perhaps, as in the last race, maybe the gap will be a little bit closer compared to places like Barcelona. I am expecting to see that through a lot of the field. I would definitely say that this is one of the better ones for us."

Meanwhile, Scottish rookie Paul di Resta raised hopes in the Force India camp with an eighth-fastest time, behind the Williams of Rubens Barrichello.