By Andrew Benson Chief F1 writer in Monaco
Monaco Grand Prix, day one
- Thursday, May 22: First practice (08:55-10:55 BST): BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website. Second practice (12:55-14:35): Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.
Lewis Hamilton says he hopes his Mercedes team face a challenge from rivals Red Bull and Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.
Mercedes have dominated all five races this season and Hamilton, who has won four, says he likes to fight for wins.
“I’m racing my team-mate [Nico Rosberg], so I do have competition and I’m grateful for that,” Hamilton said.
“I’m hoping we have a closer race. It would be cool if there were Ferraris and Red Bulls in the mix.”
Some drivers believe the unique characteristics of the Monaco street circuit give Mercedes’ rivals their best chance so far this season.
This is because the lack of straights in Monaco mean engine performance is less influential in overall lap time, and the Mercedes engine has more power than the Ferrari or the Renault used by Red Bull.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel said: “Mercedes have a very, very strong package, Nico and Lewis are very good around here so they will be the ones to beat. Maybe we can be a bit closer. The target is to have a very good qualifying because that’s half the job done on Saturday.”
- Australian GP: Nico Rosberg
- Malaysian GP: Lewis Hamilton
- Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton
- Chinese GP: Lewis Hamilton
- Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton
And Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso said: “In Monaco definitely there is a different scenario to other races and a little bit more open for some other teams after the domination of Mercedes in the first races. Hopefully we see some alternatives.
“But they are still the big favourites, no doubt. If you have confidence with the car, you can do extra here and the performance of the car is not so important.”
Alonso caused a stir when he was asked for his reaction to comments from Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of the board of management of Mercedes’ parent company Daimler, who said on Tuesday that the Spaniard was “perhaps the best F1 driver”.
Talking to staff at a Mercedes car factory in the Spanish city of Vitoria on Tuesday, Zetsche said this was because Alonso always featured in races despite being “in a car that is not very competitive”.
Alonso said: “It’s always welcome when people see your job in a good way and respect what you try to do and what you try to achieve.
“It’s sometimes; not sad, but sometimes strange to see good comments and good compliments from people from outside, and from the side that is supposed to be close to you there are the opposite comments.
“That’s motivating for me. It’s good to receive good comments but it is funny when you see the opposite in your closest friends.”
Ferrari said Alonso was referring to some critical articles that have appeared in Italian media in recent days.
There has been no public criticism of him from Ferrari this season, although he was publicly admonished by Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo last summer after saying he would like “someone else’s car” for his birthday.
Mercedes played down the importance of Zetsche’s comments, pointing out that he was at the factory with King Juan Carlos of Spain and saying he was merely being polite to his hosts.