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Alonso: 'Red Bull will take Monaco'

2014-05-21 09:00

NO HIGH HOPES Fernando Alonso doubts Ferrari can secure a podium place in Monaco this weekend, but says Red Bull will challenge Mercedes. Image: AFP

TIM COLLINGS

MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Fernando Alonso may have little hope of winning this weekend's 2014 Monaco Formula 1 GP for Ferrari but does believe 2013 champion team Red Bull will challenge runaway leader Mercedes.

"This year," he said after the Spanish GP two weeks earlier, "I think Monte Carlo will be one of the few possibilities to challenge Mercedes - especially for Red Bull. It is a chance but not, I think, for us."

The 32-year-old Spaniard has not won in Monaco since the second of his two successive victories in 2007 in a race that ended with controversy as he led home his then Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.

GOING FOR NO.5

Hamilton, then a rookie, claimed he should have won because he was faster than Alonso but was told to obey instructions and hold position. A post-race inquiry vindicated the team's position in controlling its drivers with a crushing 1-2 victory.

Hamilton has arrived in Monaco for the 2014 race not as a new boy but as 2008 champion and in-form championship leader with four consecutive wins for the 'silver arrows' and intent on adding another to that which he claimed for McLaren after Alonso's abrupt departure, in 2008.

And, after clocking the fastest times in qualifying for the previous two years, Mercedes knows it should be confident of another pole start, perhaps a front-row lock-out, and turning the traditional 78-lap contest into a private in-house duel.

Contrary to expectations, however, there is an air of nervous concern in the Mercedes camp as German Nico Rosberg, 2013 winner in Monaco and Hamilton's main rival, bids to halt the Englishman's winning streak.

Team chief Toto Wolff explained that, perversely, the near-perfection of the team's cars could undermine their qualifying supremacy of recent years on the famous Mediterranean street circuit.

That was achieved - by Rosberg in 2013 and compatriot Michael Schumacher in 2012 - through to their cars' characteristic of over-heating the tyres, a negative issue for anywhere else but perfect for peak performance one-lap blasts in Monaco.

Wolff added: "In the past, on a low-grip circuit such as Monaco, we've been able to keep the tyres alive easily, but over-working them is not a problem any more."

POWER DISADVANTAGE?

That, plus the tight, twisty and punishing nature of the 3.34km circuit, means Mercedes' 2014 power advantage could be reduced, according to Alonso, who believes Red Bull has the performance characteristics to mount a challenge.

"In the corners the Red Bulls are very fast but on the straights they seem to lose a lot of lap time," he explained, "but in Monte Carlo there are no straights so Red Bull could challenge Mercedes here."

Hamilton, who gained the lead in the Drivers' title race by winning in Spain, is also worried that he has enjoyed a fat slice of luck in his four straight wins and pointed out that Rosberg was the faster driver in two of those races.

"It's still encouraging that I won," he said. "As in Bahrain, I felt very good after that, but I know what I've got and I feel it shouldn't have been that close. I want to be further ahead and to be faster but in Spain and Bahrain he was quicker.

"Even though I finished ahead - and it's positive for me in the sense that I know I'm able to behave well under pressure - I know that ultimately he was quicker. I'm not being negative. It's just I'm a perfectionist."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Monaco GP this weekend.
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