Fernando Alonso spot on as Mercedes set the early pace in Monaco


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The Independent Online

Fernando Alonso is rarely wrong when it comes to predicting form at grands prix, and his suggestion on Wednesday that Mercedes are a contender for victory in Monaco was borne out by the silver cars' speed again in practice.

"Mercedes will be strong," the Ferrari driver declared. "They have been on pole position for the last three grands prix so we expect them to be very strong again. They were on pole position here last year with Michael Schumacher before he got a grid penalty. We know how difficult it is to overtake here, so if they are on pole, then they are favourites."

The interesting point was that Nico Rosberg, who has taken two of the team's poles this year, was again faster than team-mate Lewis Hamilton. In the first session the German set the pace with 1 minute 16.195 seconds as Hamilton was only fifth with 1 min 16.469 sec, while in the afternoon he recorded 1:14.597 to Hamilton's 1:15.077. In both sessions Alonso was Mercedes' closest competitor, with 1:16.282 and 1:15.196, while Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari, 2010 and 2012 winner Mark Webber in the lead Red Bull, and the Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were also in the mix. Points leader Sebastian Vettel had a quiet day, with 10th in the morning and ninth in the afternoon.

"A very productive day for us," Rosberg said. "We completed a lot of laps and I feel comfortable in the car. It seems that we are quick again on one lap but we have been working hard again to make improvements to our race pace. It'll be interesting to see where we are compared to the others over the weekend."

Hamilton was not quite so chirpy. "I need to improve my one-lap pace," he said. "The car is almost there and the pace looks good so we'll look at the data tonight and work on those areas which can still be improved."