Fernando Alonso was fastest in final practice

Fernando Alonso has emerged as a surprise candidate for pole position after going comfortably quickest in the final practice session at the Monaco Grand Prix.

A time of 1:14.433 was a head-turning effort at the end of the day – some 0.5 seconds faster than second-fastest man Jenson Button and a similar margin quicker than his fastest lap time on Thursday afternoon’s practice session.

Certainly on the back of the Ferrari team’s recent form, few would have expected the team to show decent pace here, but the Spaniard has been really fired up and could cause a stir in qualifying. And in what was a very good session for Ferrari, Felipe Massa finished the day third-fastest.

Good weather once again greeted the drivers as the action resumed after Monaco’s traditional Friday ‘rest day’, and Michael Schumacher was among the first to hit the track in order to get more miles under his belt.

The seven-time World Champion looked in good touch early in the session, heading the timesheets for the first half of the one-hour session and eventually ending it fifth-quickest, out-pacing Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber along the way.

The same could not be said for Schumacher’s Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg, who demonstrated how not to take advantage of what was clearly a good car set-up: have a crash.

Rosberg's Mercedes suddenly snapped right exiting the tunnel Rosberg launched over the chicane speed bumps Rosberg narrowly avoided a heavy head-on crash

In fairness, it’s probably too early to attribute blame to the German, but his accident – just eight minutes into the session – was pretty substantial. Rosberg lost control under braking for the Nouvelle Chicane and slammed into the barriers. He was lucky not to collect the same piece of Armco that Jenson Button clobbered in 2003, but his mechanics have plenty of work to do if he wants a shot at participating in qualifying.

Rosberg’s accident caused the session to be red-flagged, and once the action got going again, Alonso took the opportunity to move to the top of the timesheets.

Fourth-fastest was Sebastian Vettel, whose Red Bull team spent much of the session seemingly working on a race set-up, judging by their running on the soft-compound – as opposed to the super-soft – tyres for much of the session.

With Hamilton and Webber sixth- and seventh-fastest respectively, it was the two Toro Rosso drivers who showed their hand by finishing inside the top-ten, with Jaime Alguersuari quicker than Sébastien Buemi. Sauber driver Sergio Pérez completed the top-ten.

After showing little speed in the first two practice sessions, Paul di Resta was seemingly much happier on the super-soft tyres and finished the session 11th-fastest in his Force Vitantonio Liuzzi slapped the wall at Ste DevoteIndia, while team-mate Adrian Sutil – who had shown very solid pace on Thursday – languished down in 17th. He followed the two Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld, who were some three seconds off the pace.

Merely five-hundredths slower than Sutil was Heikki Kovalainen, who must have given Team Lotus huge encouragement that it could break into Q2 this weekend.

Showing much improved pace, the HRT duo of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan brought up the rear, but Liuzzi will also face an anxious wait before qualifying after he binned his F111 at Ste Devote with five minutes of the session to run.

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2011 Monaco Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia 1:14.433 18
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.563 17
3. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 0.591 45
4. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.812 46
5. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 0.877 33
6. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.953 33
7. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 1.096 42
8. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.184 43
9. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.303 32
10. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.388 47
11. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.557 15
12. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.763 39
13. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.900 49
14. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.970 37
15. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 3.346 35
16. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 3.447 38
17. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 3.636 46
18. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 3.682 50
22. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 4.147 21
20. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 4.375 21
21. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 4.826 19
22. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 5.682 15
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 5.845 16
24. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 no time 3

[Images via Formula1.com, LAT]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.
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