Sat, May 28, 2011 - Page 18 News List

F1: Alonso sets pace in Monaco to raise Ferrari’s spirits

Reuters, MONACO

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso takes a turn during the first practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso raised his suffering team’s spirits with the fastest lap in Monaco Grand Prix practice on Thursday.

The double world champion, also a double Monaco winner in his time at Renault and McLaren, lapped the metal-fenced street circuit with a best time of 1 minute, 15.123 seconds in the afternoon session.

The Spaniard had been second fastest in the hot and sunny morning running, just 0.113 seconds slower than Red Bull’s 23-year-old Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, who lapped in 1 minute, 16.619 seconds.

“It seems we are a bit more competitive than elsewhere,” the Spaniard said. “Here the aerodynamics count for less and so we are suffering less.”

Vettel, winner of four of the five races so far this season, leads the championship with 118 points to Hamilton’s 77 and Webber’s 67. Alonso is fifth with 51, while Ferrari are third overall in the constructors’ standings.

Alonso’s lap was a boost for Formula One’s most glamorous team ahead of the most evocative race on the calendar and coming after their humiliation in Spain last weekend where leaders Red Bull and McLaren lapped everyone else.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in the afternoon, just 0.105 seconds slower than Alonso at the 2008 champion’s favorite street circuit, as drivers tried out Pirelli’s super-soft tires for the first time.

Vettel, alone among the championship frontrunners in still seeking his first Monaco win, was fifth fastest after lunch.

The German’s Australian teammate Mark Webber, winner last year in the Mediterranean sunshine, failed to set a time in the first practice after being sidelined by a gear selection problem. He was eighth in the second stint.

Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world champion and five-time Monaco winner, went into the tire wall at the resurfaced Ste Devote corner at the end of the pit straight in the morning.

The German, who locked up on the approach to the corner and then tried in vain to steer the Mercedes down the escape road, still ended up as the 10th fastest overall on a brilliant and hot morning.

The damage was minimal and he returned to set the seventh best time after the break.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, a Monaco resident whose boyhood school is a stone’s throw from the paddock, was third in both sessions.

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