Feud with Alonso fuels Hamilton to go one better in Monte Carlo

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The Independent Online

A year ago, after he had finished second to his then McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso in the Monaco Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton very subtly let the cat out of the bag about his anger at not winning, and the strains on his relationship with Alonso.

It was the first manifestation of the underlying tensions that would later blow the team apart and result in Alonso going back to Renault. Hamilton narrowly missed out on pole position to the Spaniard, but later it transpired that he had up to six laps' more fuel on board. He hounded Alonso in the race but was called in to refuel three laps sooner than he expected, thus nullifying the advantage he believed would win him the race.

He made sure everybody at the post-race conference knew about it with a seemingly benign comment registering his surprise at McLaren's tactics. It seemed that McLaren chose to appease Alonso, who had been carping about Hamilton's early-season pace and accusing the team of favouring the upstart.

Next weekend Hamilton aims to equal his main rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa with two wins. "I am really looking forward to Monaco," he says. "It is one of the tracks I always dreamed of racing at in Formula One, particularly having competed there and won in the F3 Euroseries and GP2. For me it is the best circuit of the year, there is nowhere like it for getting the adrenalin going. Because the track is so tight and there are no run-off areas, you have to be incredibly precise, there is no room for error. As a driver that makes it all the more exciting."

Last year McLaren had a clear advantage over Ferrari in the tight corners that abound in the principality, but the indications are that this role may have been reversed. "For sure last year was OK," says the Turkish GP winner Massa. "I finished third but McLaren were very strong there. We have been working a lot on the set-up for Monte Carlo, so hopefully we will have a good chance to win there as well. We know Monte Carlo is a track which can be very tricky, especially without traction control. But I am looking forward to being very strong there as well."

Raikkonen says he has moved on from a disappointing race in Istanbul. "Afterwards it's always easy to say what we could have done, but I never do that. This case is closed. We'll have two days of tests in France to test the solutions for the Monaco GP and are very motivated to try to be strong on a track where we were not competitive last year."

The BMW-Sauber chief, Dr Mario Theissen, believes his drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica, will be in the hunt in Monaco too, but McLaren's CEO, Martin Whitmarsh, says Hamilton's fighting second place in Turkey has boosted his team's confidence at a time when they desperately need another win.

"Lewis had an extraordinary sprinting race in Turkey. He's going to Monaco now, where I think we'll have a competitive car. We've worked pretty hard on that and it's a circuit that both our drivers like. Lewis has won in F3 and GP2 there and clearly feels he could have had a crack at winning last year, and will be very keen to do that this year."