Following Kimi Raikkonen’s dominant victory in Spain, McLaren will be force to be reckoned with in Monaco this weekend. However, Fernando Alonso’s pace in Thursday’s practice sessions suggests Renault is equal to the Woking team’s challenge.

Following Kimi Raikkonen’s dominant victory in Spain, McLaren will be force to be reckoned with in Monaco this weekend. However, Fernando Alonso’s pace in Thursday’s practice sessions suggests Renault is equal to the Woking team’s challenge.


Alonso’s fastest time in Thursday's sessions for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix was 1:15,835 – more than a second quicker than Juan-Pablo Montoya's best lap in the first session. By the end of the day McLaren-Mercedes’ third driver, Alex Wurz, was just eight hundredths slower than Alonso, and David Coulthard’s Red Bull Cosworth was third quickest.


"The set-up felt comfortable from the beginning, so there is not too much more to do but in any case, the track conditions are changing all the time, which means we look at the details of the set-up on Saturday," the Spaniard said. "The car feels consistent on the longer runs, so things are going perfectly at the moment."


Meanwhile, Montoya tipped McLaren and Renault to fight it out for victory on Sunday: "The car (McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20) felt pretty good straight away and we just kept working on the set-up, so I'm pretty happy.


“It will be a tough and interesting race, but the opportunities for Sunday are very good. Our car looks very good, it's quick, but the Renault looks quite strong too, so it is going to be a tough race with the Renaults”, he added.


Both Ferrari and Williams-BMW struggled to find a good pace, however. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who is hoping to win in Monaco for a record-equalling sixth time, managed only the eleventh fastest time of the day and team-mate Barrichello was fifteenth.


Schumacher said, "The car did not run well this afternoon, as I picked up a vibration that got worse as the session went on, so we felt it was best to stop so that we could analyse what was going on. At this circuit, if you have a small problem you lose a lot of track time and because of that it is hard for me to predict what will be the situation in qualifying on Saturday."


Williams-BMW team-mates Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld set the 12th and 16th fastest times respectively.


“We got through everything we had planned. We managed to do quite a lot of laps with both cars which is good. In general we are doing okay, we just need to find a bit more pace," Webber was quoted as saying.


Meanwhile, Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher has been given a half-second penalty to be added to his aggregate qualifying time for the Grand Prix after what was described as a 'tyre error' in Thursday's free practice. Ralf was found to have used a left-front tyre during practice that had not been officially allocated to him. Michelin has blamed human error for the mix up.

Original article from Car