Rosberg shows way for Monaco
ROSBERG ON TOP - TWICE:Mercedes' German driver Nico Rosberg drives during the second practice session at the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo ahead of the Monaco Formula 1 GP. Image: AFP
MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes a dream start to its Monaco Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time in both practice sessions on Thursday for the glamour race.
To further fuel widespread expectations of a fourth successive pole position for the Silver Arrows, team mate and 2008 World champion Lewis Hamilton lapped second fastest in the afternoon.
Rosberg, who has been at home on the twisty streets ever since he was a boy growing up in the principality, clocked a best time of 1min16.195 before lunch and 1min14.759 in the second session.
THIRD POLE MAYBE?
That later lap, set early in the session, compared to last year's fastest time in qualifying by Mercedes' Michael Schumacher of 1min14.301. Hamilton was 0.318 off Rosberg's pace, with drivers using Pirelli's softest tyre compounds.
While Rosberg will be chasing his third successive pole position in Saturday's qualifying, hat-trick chasing Spaniard Fernando Alonso was second and third fastest respectively for Ferrari.
Alonso, winner of his home race in Spain this month, is hoping to become Ferrari's first Monaco winner since 2001 and the first F1 driver to triumph in the glamour race with three separate teams.
Team mate Felipe Massa was fourth on a gloriously sunny afternoon with the Mediterranean serving as a sparkling backdrop to the action.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean was third-fastest for Lotus in the morning as he limbered up for his closest thing to a home race in the continuing absence of a French GP but then crashed into the barriers at Sainte Devote after lunch.
On a historic course that threads its way up the hill and into Casino Square before dipping and winding down to the darkness of the tunnel and blasting past the moored yachts on the quayside, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado provided the morning's surprise.
The Williams driver was sixth fastest, although he faded in the afternoon on one of the most unforgiving circuits on the calendar.
MALDONDO HAS FORM
Williams has not scored a point yet this season, a run of six races in a row including 2012's finale, and are in danger of chalking up their worst-yet start to a championship this weekend.
Maldonado has form in Monaco, however, winning junior series races there on his way to F1 and loving the challenge of keeping out of the barriers.
Red Bull's triple World champion Sebastian Vettel, who has a four-point lead in the standings over Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, was only 10th and ninth quickest with Australian team mate Mark Webber - last year's winner - seventh and fifth.
McLaren's Jenson Button was eighth in both sessions, with Mexican team mate Sergio Perez ninth and 12th, ahead of what could be another difficult weekend for a team struggling to catch up after starting the year well off the pace.
First free practice times
1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min16.195
2 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min16.282
3 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1min16.380
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min16.394
5 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min16.469
6 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1min16.993
7 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1min17.020
8 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min17.129
9 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1min17.378
10 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1min17.380
11 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1min17.509
12 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 1min17.548
13 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min17.625
14 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1min18.193
15 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1min18.454
16 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1min18.754
17 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1min18.830
18 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1min19.067
19 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 1min19.203
20 Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault 1min19.438
21 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1min19.773
22 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 1min20.225
Second free practice times
1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min14.759
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min15.077
3 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min15.196
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min15.278
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1min15.404
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1min15.511
7 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1min15.718
8 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min15.959
9 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - Renault 1min16.014
10 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 1min16.046
11 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min16.349
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1min16.434
13 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1min16.823
14 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1min16.857
15 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1min16.935
16 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1min17.145
17 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1min17.184
18 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1min17.264
19 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1min17.892
20 Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault 1min18.212
21 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 1min18.784
22 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 1min19.031