Monaco: First practice up in smoke
GREAT START TO MONACO GP: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso makes a great first practice run in Monaco but can he maintain his pace ahead of qualifying?
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso showed his mastery of Monaco with the fastest lap during the first practice session cut short in a cloud of smoke.
Alonso, twice a winner in the Mediterranean principality with Renault and McLaren, roared past the moored yachts with a best time of one minute 16.265 seconds.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean burnished his hopes of becoming a first French Formula 1 winner in Monaco since Olivier Panis's unlikely victory in 1996.
UP IN SMOKE
Grosjean set the second best time of , 0.365 seconds behind Alonso.
Grosjean said: "I like Monaco, it's good fun. The car is going well at the moment so let's see what we can do later on. It's important to have a car that you are confident with and work every single details because it makes such a big difference."
Sergio Perez, returning to the scene of his accident during 2011 qualifying, clocked the third best time of the morning for Sauber with race favourite McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in fourth.
The session was red flagged with just over nine minutes to go when Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham blew its engine and filled the tunnel, the fastest point of the circuit, with smoke.
Kovalainen parked up at the tunnel exit as drivers threaded their way through the smoke. With oil also deposited on the track, organisers decided not to re-start the session.
Kimi Raikkonen was left at the bottom of the time sheet after he completed an installation lap but failed to set a time.
He then sat out the rest of the session as mechanics worked on his car.
Pastor Maldonado, surprise winner for Williams in Spain but now among the favourites at a track he loves, was again among the frontrunners with the fifth fastest time.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa, under intense pressure to deliver after scoring just two points in five races, was sixth and 0.578 slower than Alonso.
Red Bull's double world champion and 2011's winner Sebastian Vettel, joint championship leader with Alonso, clocked the ninth best time.
Five times Monaco winner and seven times world champion Michael Schumacher damaged his Mercedes front wing when he rode the kerbs at the swimming pool complex and was 11th fastest.
First free practice session times from the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix:
1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min16.265
2 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min16.630
3 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min16.711
4 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min16.747
5 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min16.760
6 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min16.843
7 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min17.03
8 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min17.190
9 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min17.222
10 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min17.261
11 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min17.413
12 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min17.631
13 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min18.106
14 JeanEric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min18.209
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min18.252
16 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min18.302
17 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min18.617
18 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min19.039
19 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min19.341
20 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min20.838
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min20.895
22 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min21.638
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min22.423
24 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus (no time)
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