Fernando Alonso says Mercedes are favourites for Monaco before talking up his title hopes
Spaniard trims Sebastian Vettel's lead with home victory
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 13/05/13 12:42pm
Fernando Alonso has identified Mercedes as the favourites to win the upcoming Monaco GP despite lapping a stricken Lewis Hamilton during his resounding victory in Sunday's race at Barcelona.
Armed with a car he believes is the best he has driven in four years at Ferrari, the two-times World Champion closed to within seventeen points of championship leader Sebastian Vettel with a dominant win on home soil at the Circuit de Catalunya.
In contrast to the F138, which is commonly regarded as the best all-round package in the field, Mercedes' 2013 charger is a Jekyll and Hyde affair - supremely fast in qualifying trim but reduced to a backmarker on race day by in its inability to keep its tyres in shape. Around the tight confines of Monaco, however, it may not matter.
"They will arrive as favourites for Monaco," Alonso declared in the post-race press conference. "They've been on pole position for the last three races, they were on pole last year with Michael [Schumacher], so it would be a surprise if they weren't on pole position in Monaco. And it's more difficult to overtake in Monaco, so maybe they can keep good positions for longer."
Perhaps surprisingly, Alonso also revealed that he had identified the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen as his greatest threat prior to Sunday's Spanish GP rather than Vettel, who started the race in third spot on the grid, or either of the two Mercedes cars which had been expected to struggle due to the W04's excessive rate of tyre wear.
"When we started the race we knew that Kimi was probably the fastest on race pace of the leading guys," the Spaniard confirmed. "The Mercedes were a question mark. We thought that maybe they would have problems in the race but you never know until it happens really. And Sebastian, they didn't have an easy weekend on Friday and in qualifying they were not on pole which is normal for them and then in the race, they struggle a little bit more."
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At Ferrari, the situation is reversed, with Alonso yet to qualify on the front-row this season and only fifth for this week's race. Sundays, though, are an altogether different matter with the Ferrari appearing to boast superior race pace to any of its rivals. If Alonso is ever to be crowned Champion while in red, it will surely be this year.
"This year we have in our hands a package that maybe is not the fastest, still not the fastest but we are working on that," he reflected.
"But definitely on Sundays it's a very competitive team package, let's say. We are not the quickest over one lap, maybe we don't set the fastest time in the race but we have fantastic strategy people, fantastic pitstops, the starts, tyre degradation. We have many ingredients to have a competitive car to fight for the Championship.
"In the four years in Ferrari maybe it's true that this is the one we feel more confident with but we are not happy still with the performance of the car and we want to have a good and aggressive developing programme for the next races."