Fernando Alonso fastest during Monaco practice

Fernando Alonso raised suffering Ferrari's spirits with the fastest lap in Monaco Grand Prix practice today.

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 one minute 15.123 seconds in the afternoon session.



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



Vettel, winner of four of the five races so far, 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 the sport'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 slower than Alonso at the 2008 champion's favourite street circuit.



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



The German's Australian team mate 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-times world champion and five-times Monaco winner, went into the tyre wall at the resurfaced Ste Devote corner at the end of the pit straight in the morning.





LEAKING PIPE



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 harbourside paddock, was third in both sessions.



Venezuela's Pastor Maldonado, always quick around the circuit in junior series, was seventh before lunch for struggling Williams who have yet to score a point in five races.



The first session was red-flagged for about five minutes when water began seeping on to the pit straight, seemingly from a leaking pipe beneath the asphalt.



Officials inspected the surface and produced a long implement to turn off a hidden stopcock before allowing practice to resume.



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