Alonso beats McLaren team-mate Hamilton for Monaco pole

Fernando Alonso Monaco Grand Prix

Double world champion Fernando Alonso took his first pole position of the season after beating his team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a small margin of two tenths of a second.

The McLaren drivers dominated the one-hour qualifying session and despite a brief shower, the pace of Alonso and Hamilton was mighty impressive. Hamilton was fractionally quicker than the Spaniard until he encountered Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing on the approach to Portier. The Australian moved off line as they went through the tunnel, but Hamilton lost that vital moment to record a lap time of 1min. 15.905secs. This was only good enough for second, but despite the outcome this was his best ever qualifying performance after four races.

As for Alonso, he was fast approaching Nico Rosberg’s Williams but managed to squeeze in a lap time of 1min. 15.726secs to take the top spot. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa qualified in third but for team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn will start back on row eight after damaging his car.

Raikkonen clipped the inside barrier at the exit of the Swimming Pool complex on his first flying lap in session two, breaking the Ferrari’s right-front suspension.

The Finn continued as far as La Rascasse, but the damaged F2007 could not make around the sharp right corner and ended up parked in virtually the same place, as Michael Schumacher had been in that infamous blocking incident in last year’s qualifying session.

As Kimi sat there – stricken on the outside of the corner – Massa came upon him and decided to go to the left; for a moment a double nightmare loomed for the Italian team, but Raikkonen managed to reversing his way out of trouble, and the Brazilian was able to go by. The Finn eventually got back to the pits, but the damage could not be repaired in time.

Giancarlo Fisichella took Renault’s best grid spot of the season with P4, with Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber doing the same for Williams and Red Bull in fifth and sixth respectively. The BMW-Saubers will start on row four, with Nick Heidfeld ahead of Robert Kubica.

As for David Coulthard, he made into the top-ten shootout but was denied by the race stewards to take part as a punishment for blocking Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen when on an out-lap near the end of the second qualifying session. The Red Bull driver was demoted to 16th on the grid, behind Raikkonen, while Kovalainen could only manage 14th.

So with the two McLarens up front, it will be fascinating who will lead into Sainte Devote first. Overtaking on this narrow street circuit is near impossible so it is vital to have track position and the best race strategy. It also doesn’t help that there is an eighty percent chance of rain on race day…

Can Lewis Hamilton win his first-ever Formula One race after four starts? He has an amazing record around Monte Carlo, winning last year’s GP2 event with some style. Or will we see Fernando Alonso scoring his second win as a way of kick-starting his title defence? What about Massa? Will the Brazilian score another race victory despite qualifying in third. The 2007 Monaco Grand Prix should provide these answers with drama and thrills around the Principality.

Monaco Grand Prix starting grid

1. ALONSO McLaren 1:15.726
2. HAMILTON McLaren 1:15.905
3. MASSA Ferrari 1:15.967
4. FISICHELLA Renault 1:16.285
5. ROSBERG Williams 1:16.439
6. WEBBER Red Bull 1:16.784
7. HEIDFELD BMW-Sauber 1:16.832
8. KUBICA BMW-Sauber 1:16.955
9. BARRICHELLO Honda 1:17.498
10. BUTTON Honda 1:17.939
11. WURZ Williams 1:16.662
12. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1:16.703
13. COULTHARD Red Bull 1:16.319 *
14. TRULLI Toyota 1:16.988
15. KOVALAINEN Renault 1:17.125
16. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:16.251
17. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1:18.250
18. SPEED Toro Rosso 1:18.390
19. SUTIL Spyker 1:18.418
20. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1:18.539
21. SATO Super Aguri 1:18.554
22. ALBERS Spyker No time

* Coulthard was not allowed to participate in Q3 after impeding Kovalainen during Q2.

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