Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished Thursday practice for the Monaco Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets, with Rosberg 0.318s faster than his team-mate in the afternoon session.
Rosberg improved on his morning time with a 1:14.759 and is emerging as the favourite to secure the all-important pole position on Saturday. Hamilton is within striking distance of his team-mate but Fernando Alonso will also fancy his chances after finishing the session third fastest and 0.437s off the lead Mercedes. Felipe Massa could also be in the hunt after finishing Thursday just 0.1s off his Ferrari team-mate.
Romain Grosjean looked like he would be in contention for the top four places after a series of impressive laps on the soft tyre early in the session, but when he bolted on the super-softs he overcooked his entry to St. Devote and slammed his Lotus into the barriers. The impact wiped off his front wing and also damaged the front left suspension, leaving the Monaco marshals with the job of craning it high over the track to return it to the pit lane. The session was stopped soon after to fix a dislodged kerb at the swimming pool chicane, but the marshals again acted quickly to limit the disruption.
Grosjean's best soft tyre time was enough for seventh at the end of the 90 minutes and was just 0.2s behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was a further tenth off Mark Webber in fifth. Jenson Button was eighth fastest, 1.2s off the pace, but was still ahead of Sebastian Vettel who could only manage ninth fastest with a 1:16.014. Paul di Resta rounded off the top ten with a 1:16.046.
While Mercedes' one-lap pace was expected, it was somewhat surprising to see Rosberg manage 27 laps on the supersoft tyre on high fuel later in the session. Rosberg's times were competitive enough and indicate a one-stop race could be possible, although he was required to cool the tyres at times. Between them the two Mercedes completed 97 laps as the team focused on its long run pace.
Raikkonen struggled to match his team-mate Grosjean over one lap, but a series of late laps in the 1m18s on soft tyres suggest Lotus continues to have strong race pace. However, with the Ferraris, Red Bulls and McLarens all having competitive stints the focus remains on securing a high grid slot.