Date: 28th May 2012 at 9:19am
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Fernando Alonso looked strong for Ferrari throughout the whole weekend in Monaco.

He topped the times in Free Practice One, 0.365 seconds ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean who many had predicted would be a contender for the race win on Sunday.

In a damp second session on Thursday, all the quick times were set at the very start of the session, but once again Ferrari looked quick, Felipe Massa, a man under all sorts of pressure coming into the weekend, got ahead of Alonso for third, while the Spaniard was fourth on the timing sheets. He might have been +0.915 down on the McLaren of Jenson Button, but the Brit set his time on the super-soft tyres which at that stage were notably quicker than the yellow striped soft tyres.

The unique set up of Monaco gave us a day off on Friday, with Free practice three on Saturday morning again showing Ferrari’s top pace, again though it was Massa who was quicker with the Brazilian taken second place behind Rosberg, Alonso fourth again.

So on to qualifying, always one of the highlight sessions in the Formula One calendar and Ferrari’s pace stayed with them with both Alonso and Massa getting through to Q3 for the first time this season.

With tyre strategy for the race being so important though, once again we didn’t get a complete top ten shoot-out for pole position, which was taken by Michael Schumacher, but following his crash in Spain with Bruno Senna, he had to take a five-place grid penalty. Which meant that despite Alonso qualifying in sixth, +0.647 behind the Mercedes, Alonso actually started in front of the German.

‘I am happy with this qualifying, the best as a team that we have seen this season. I have had a good feeling all weekend long. Maybe in Q3, we could have shaved a few hundredths off here and there, but I don?t think I?d have moved up any places, given that the driver in front of me is three tenths away. Usually here it falls to the top three on the grid to fight for the win, so I think that our realistic goal is a place on the podium, but we also know that surprises are the order of the day. We saw that again today, with Michael on pole: I was very pleased for him, even though he won?t be able to make the most of it because of the penalty. Alonso told formula1.com after qualifying had ended.

So for Alonso aiming for a podium position from fifth on the grid, an important start would prove to be vital for Ferrari.

As ever at Monaco, the first turn was a scene of chaos, all caused by a slow get-a-way by the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, that caused the cars to bunch up behind the Brit and Alonso collided with Grosjean.

The damage caused to the Lotus forced the Frenchman to retire, but luckily for Alonso his Ferrari was not damaged, immediately Alonso looked quick, putting Lewis Hamilton under all sorts of pressure, but it wasn’t until the first round of pit-stops that Alonso got passed the McLaren.

That of course gave Alonso the podium finish he was targeting and enough points to lead the Formula One World Championship going into Canada.

After the race a jubilant Alonso said: ‘I?m very happy with the way things have gone this weekend. We leave Monaco heading the Championship: if I?d been offered that after the Mugello test at the beginning of the month, I?d have signed for it there and then, but if I?d been told that after Melbourne, I would never have believed it!

‘We knew the start would be crucial. I got away very well and I almost got alongside Grosjean and Hamilton: the Frenchman and I touched and, for a moment, I was scared the car was damaged. On this track overtaking is almost impossible and being in someone?s slipstream causes temperature problems, both for the engine and the tyres. So, you cannot always be on the attack of those ahead, trying instead to manage the situation and push flat out only at the moments that count, such as the pit stops and that?s what I did.

‘I dedicate this podium to all the victims and their families of the earthquake that hit the Emilia region last week.?