Sat, May 27, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Kimi Raikkonen's car runs too hot

AP , MONTE CARLO, MONACO

PHOTO: EPA

If Kimi Raikkonen is to repeat his victory of a year ago in the Monaco Grand Prix, he'll have to do better than this.

His car caught fire in Thursday's first practice for the weekend race.

"A bit of excitement for me at the end of the first practice," Raikkonen said. "There was a small fire which caused some damage."

"The fire marshals were hesitant until I took the fire extinguisher myself."

Though he managed only three laps in the first practice, he turned 18 in the afternoon session and was among the quickest.

"I'm pleased with what we have achieved so far and we look competitive," said the McLaren-Mercedes driver, who is trying to become the first to win two straight in Monaco since Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995.

``The team did a great job in making the necessary repairs and I was able to get some running in halfway through the second session,'' added Raikkonen, who is wearing a new helmet design for this Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, Formula One champion Fernando Alonso began a bid for his first victory in Monaco by posting the fastest time in Thursday's opening practice.

Alonso timed 1 minute, 16.712 seconds on the narrow, twisting street circuit in the morning. In the afternoon he clocked 1:16.221.

Thursday's first practice on the traditional Ascension Day holiday will be followed by a day off on Friday. Another practice and qualifying are set for Saturday. Sunday's race -- 78 laps -- begins a few hours before the Indy 500.

Test driver Alexander Wurz of McLaren-Mercedes had the top time in the afternoon at 1:15.907.

Usually test drivers are the fastest in the opening practice, but Alonso showed he is determined to gain his first victory on a course where his best finish was a modest fourth last year.

The Spaniard has won three of the six races this season, with two victories for seven-time champion Michael Schumacher and one for Alonso's Renault teammate Giancarlo Fisichella.

"Thursday in Monaco is always a day more for the drivers than the engineers, as we run a lot to get used to the circuit again and feel comfortable," Alonso said.

Fisichella was third in 1:16.888, just behind test driver Anthony Davidson in a Honda clocking 1:16.872 in the morning

For a long time, Davidson had the fastest time in the second practice -- 1:16.075 -- but damaged a tire cutting a wall too tight midway through the session.

"I made a small mistake when I locked the inside front, hit the barrier at turn 1," Davidson said. "This unfortunately created a lot of damage to the left front of the car."

Juan Pablo Montoya of McLaren-Mercedes timed 1:16.138 for third in the afternoon just ahead of Alonso.

Alonso has a solid lead in this season's standings, 54-39 over Schumacher and the pair have taken the first two places in the last three races.

Schumacher has not won at Monte Carlo since 2001 and remains stuck on five victories. He was fourth in the first practice in 1:16.973 and was down in 15th in the second practice as Ferrari experimented with race settings.

"Obviously we cannot be too happy with what we have seen so far although the results can partly be explained by the fact we used just one set of tires," Schumacher said.

"But I'm not trying to hide the fact that the situation is not looking that good. At the moment we are too slow and have to study the data to find out why."

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