Montoya raises McLaren's spirits - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Montoya raises McLaren's spirits

By Alan Baldwin 26/05/2006 06:22:02 AM Comments (0)

Juan Pablo Montoya raised McLaren's spirits for their 40th anniversary race by lapping quicker than world champion Fernando Alonso in free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Colombian, a winner in 2003 on the unforgiving street circuit, was the quickest race driver in one minute 16.138 seconds in the afternoon after Renault's Alonso topped the timesheets in the morning.

Austrian Alexander Wurz, the Williams test driver who will not race on Sunday, was quickest of all with a time of 1:15.907 on a hot afternoon in the Mediterranean principality.

Williams race driver Mark Webber was 13th in the morning (1:18.571) and 17th in the afternoon (1:17.744).

Montoya's performance was a boost for Mercedes-powered McLaren after a scare in the morning when Kimi Raikkonen, last year's Monaco winner, pulled over.

A marshal fired foam over the rear of the car and mechanics pushed the McLaren back to the pits as Raikkonen strode off.

A Mercedes spokesman said a heat shield had caught fire and the engine was undamaged - a relief because any unscheduled change incurs a 10-place penalty on the starting grid at a circuit where overtaking is almost impossible.

Raikkonen was sixth fastest in the afternoon, with the session stopped three times due to minor incidents - twice when Honda's Anthony Davidson and BMW's Robert Kubica hit barriers and once when a bollard came loose.

McLaren, Renault's closest rivals last season with 10 victories, have struggled for pace in 2006 and are still looking for their first win of the year after six races.

McLaren made their debut at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix with founder Bruce McLaren at the wheel.

Alonso, winner of his home race in Spain this month, led the way in the morning with a lap of 1:16.712 while Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella was third fastest in the morning and seventh in the afternoon.

Ferrari's seven times champion Michael Schumacher had a mixed day, fourth in the first session and 15th in the second.

Schumacher can equal the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna's record of six Monaco wins on Sunday and has been sounding confident again as his team emerge from their deeply disappointing 2005 campaign.

"Certainly it will be much easier for us here this year compared to last year, because last year it was clear we were not competitive," the German said.

"This year I think we have a good chance."

Alonso has won three of the six races so far, with Schumacher taking two and Fisichella the other, and leads the Ferrari driver by 15 points.

The Spaniard has yet to stand on the Monaco podium after four attempts. He admits the race is not one of his favourites.

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