Motor Racing: Senna's parking sparks heated discussion: Prost set for seventh consecutive pole on the Ile Notre Dame as his old team-mate attempts to stir things up on Belle Isle in Detroit

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The Independent Online
DARK skies, scowls in the corridors of power, even a groundhog scurrying across the track: it was a familiar scene for the first practice day of the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve yesterday.

Equally routine was the dominance of Williams-Renault, and come tomorrow afternoon on Ile Notre Dame, the likelihood is that Alain Prost will be on pole position for the seventh consecutive race.

Prost completed the first qualifying session on provisional pole, with a time of 1min 18.987sec, eight-tenths of a second better than last year's best. His Williams team-mate, Damon Hill, was second fastest, followed by Michael Schumacher and Riccardo Patrese, the Benetton-Ford pair. Martin Brundle was a fine seventh in a Ligier-Renault, immediately ahead of Ayrton Senna's McLaren-Ford.

Senna was at the centre of a controversy earlier in the day when he was allowed to resume the unofficial practice session after parking his car on the grass.

Frank Williams, Flavio Briatore and Harvey Postlethwaite, on behalf of Williams, Benetton and Ferrari, expressed their objections to the stewards, who felt the McLaren was in a dangerous place and therefore had to be removed. With no spare car allowed this season, Senna might have been left stranded to observe proceedings from the sidelines. Instead, McLaren gratefully accepted the stewards' conclusion and, after due attention to the car, the Brazilian was put back to work.

Williams said: 'They said Senna's car was in a dangerous place but we didn't agree and told him what we felt. There was a lot of shouting going on and it was not very pleasant. They should not have stopped the practice. It's the second time in three weeks this has happened and there's a lot of aggravation.'

An official said: 'The car was in a dangerous position. We did not take this action because of Senna.'

What goes around, comes around, as they say, and soon Gerhard Berger was abandoning his Ferrari by the side of the track. There appeared to be no protests emanating from the stable of the Prancing Horse as the red flags were displayed again.

Williams, in any case, ought to have no deep concerns. Their car is patently in a class of its own here and Prost is working it with impeccable judgement. But then, as we have seen on a number of occasions this season, racing can be unpredictable.

Hill is particularly anxious for a twist of fortune in his favour. He acknowledges he must add aggression to his repertoire if he is to book his seat with Williams for a second season. Schumacher, who endured a similar 'trial' last season, offered words of understanding.

The German said: 'I know what Damon is going through. I think he will progress with every race, as I did last year. You get more experience and more confidence. Being in that car, and having all the expectations to be first or second is a lot of pressure, especially in your first real season.'

Schumacher is high on the list of supposed candidates to replace Hill should Williams seek a change for next season but he merely smiles at the suggestion. 'Last year at Spa I was already in a McLaren, before I was sitting in a Ferrari, now I'm in a Williams,' he said. 'The only thing I can say is it's nice to hear these things because that shows how much potential I have as a driver, but I have a fixed contract with Benetton and that will work for me next year and maybe the year after.'

Mark Blundell, in the other Ligier-Renault, was 10th, Johnny Herbert, in a Lotus-Ford, 19th and Derek Warwick, in a Footwork-Mugen, 20th.

CANADIAN GRAND PRIX (Montreal) First qualifying session: 1 A Prost (Fr) Williams-Renault 1min 18.987sec (ave speed: 201.907kph); 2 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault 1:19.491; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford 1:20.808; 4 R Patrese (It) Benetton-Ford 1:20.948; 5 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari 1:21.278; 6 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari 1:21.414; 7 M Brundle (GB) Ligier-Renault 1:21.603; 8 A Senna (Bra) McLaren-Ford 1:21.706; 9 K Wendlinger (Aut) Sauber 1:21.936; 10 M Blundell (GB) Ligier-Renault 1:22.097; 11 J J Lehto (Fin) Sauber 1:22.198; 12 E Comas (Fr) Larrousse-Lamborghini 1:22.263; 13 M Andretti (US) McLaren-Ford 1:22.751; 14 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork- Mugen Honda 1:22.891; 15 P Alliot (Fr) Larrousse- Lamborghini 1:22.983; 16 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart 1:23.152; 17 A Zanardi (It) Lotus-Ford 1:23.240; 18 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Yamaha 1:23.268; 19 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford 1:23.341; 20 D Warwick (GB) Footwork-Mugen Honda 1:23.576; 21 F Barbazza (It) Minardi-Ford 1:23.946; 22 M Alboreto (It) Lola BMS-Ferrari 1:24.362; 23 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha 1:24.391; 24 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Minardi-Ford 1:24.559; 25 T Boutsen (Bel) Jordan-Hart 1:24.632; 26 L Badoer (It) Lola BMS-Ferrari 1:25.212.

(Map omitted)