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ALONSO PIPS VETTEL IN MONACO Monaco GP Winning Margin.
Fernando Alonso shone in the sunshine as Formula One's travelling circus set up its stall for its blue riband event.
The Monaco Grand Prix is unique on the calendar as practice always takes place on a Thursday rather than Friday, and it was Ferrari star Alonso who took advantage of the unexpected conditions.
At the start of the week, heavy rain had been forecast, but instead the jewel in Formula One's crown glittered under blue skies.
Alonso, three points behind championship leader Jenson Button after his fortuitous second place in the Spanish Grand Prix four days ago, shaved a close opening 90-minute session at the principality.
The Spaniard led the way with a lap of one minute 15.927secs for the most famous street circuit in the world that only covers two miles.
Alonso pipped Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel by 0.073secs as the 22-year-old German stopped the clock on his best lap at exactly 76 seconds, with Renault's Robert Kubica in close attendance just a further 0.016secs adrift.
In a strong, and potentially ominous run for Red Bull, who have been on pole in all five grands prix this season, Barcelona race winner Mark Webber was fourth quickest with a lap of 1:16.382, nearly half a second down on Alonso.
Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa gave Ferrari one of their strongest practice showings for a while as the Brazilian was fifth, followed by Michael Schumacher on one of his favourite hunting grounds.
The five-times winner of this race was 0.662secs adrift of Alonso in sixth, with McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button seventh and eighth, split by 0.045secs.
Force India's Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Buemi in his Toro Rosso completed the top 10, the duo the only other drivers to finish within a second of Alonso.
Towards the bottom of the timesheet, Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli in 20th and 21st sandwiched Virgin Racing's Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi who were 19th and 22nd, with the quartet covered by a second.
Thankfully they were not as far adrift as expected, although the majority of the leading runners appeared to be on heavier fuel runs, with Glock 3.6 seconds behind Alonso.
However, Hispania Racing's Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok were close to six seconds behind, and on such pace would be lapped after just 13 laps of Sunday's race.
The only incident involved Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi who hit a kerb coming out of the swimming pool complex, sending him bouncing into the air and sliding sideways into a barrier where he dislodged his front wing.
01. Alonso Ferrari 1:15.927 31 laps
02. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:16.000 + 0.073 26 laps
03. Kubica Renault 1:16.016 + 0.089 28 laps
04. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:16.382 + 0.455 24 laps
05. Massa Ferrari 1:16.517 + 0.590 29 laps
06. Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.589 + 0.662 21 laps
07. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.647 + 0.720 32 laps
08. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.692 + 0.765 29 laps
09. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:16.805 + 0.878 23 laps
10. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.857 + 0.930 30 laps
11. Rosberg Mercedes 1:17.149 + 1.222 14 laps
12. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:17.331 + 1.404 28 laps
13. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:17.704 + 1.777 26 laps
14. Petrov Renault 1:17.718 + 1.791 38 laps
15. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:17.991 + 2.064 36 laps
16. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:18.397 + 2.470 39 laps
17. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.434 + 2.507 37 laps
18. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.547 + 2.620 32 laps
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:19.527 + 3.600 23 laps
20. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:19.606 + 3.679 31 laps
21. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:19.902 + 3.975 30 laps
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:20.566 + 4.639 18 laps
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:21.688 + 5.761 27 laps
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:21.853 + 5.926 6 laps
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