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Raikkonen sparkles as F1 finds its way

NEWS STORY
22/05/2005

As ever, it's mayhem on the grid ahead of this afternoon's race, as the rich, the powerful, the desperate for publicity, the disinterested and the outright vulgar bid to outdo one another as they attempt to outshine the real stars, the drivers.

We have the prospect of a thrilling battle here today, providing everyone gets through Ste Devote clearly. Monaco is famous for its generous tax laws and its casino, but few would be willing to stake more than a few chips on the outcome of today's race.

The smart money has to be on either Raikkonen or Alonso, however it would be foolish to discount Fisichella, Trulli or even one of the WilliamsF1 drivers.

Then again, when we think of gambling we also think of lotteries, and we know that Monaco has thrown up more than its fair share of shocks over the years, and who knows, we could witness another today, but it is unlikely.

Ten minutes before the race is due to begin there is a minute's silence for Prince Rainier, who died last month. It is poignant to witness the total silence in the Principality, which in a few minutes will burst into the life with the raucous screams of V10s. A fine tribute to the man who did so much for Monaco, and indeed F1.

Rubens Barrichello has predicted that the Ferraris could be lapped today, and looking at the lack of pace in qualifying, he could be right.

With three minutes remaining before the cars head off on the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 44 degrees.

At the back of the grid, Montoya starts from sixteenth, ahead of Karthikeyan and Ralf Schumacher.

As they leave the grid for the warm-up lap, Raikkonen leaves a whole load of rubber on his starting slot, a trick/tactic that goes all the way back to Gilles Villeneuve.

They get away cleanly, although Webber loses places to Fisichella and Trulli. Alonso makes a move on Raikkonen, who locks up, but resists the challenge.

At the end of the first lap it's Raikkonen, Alonso, Fisichella, Trulli, Webber, Heidfeld, Coulthard and Michael. Montoya is up to twelfth, behind Barrichello, while Ralf is seventeenth.

At the end of the second lap, Raikkonen leads by 1.7s, as Trulli, Webber and Heidfeld are running nose to tail. Michael is all over Coulthard, but the German is under pressure from Massa.

As we've seen in other races this year, Trulli has become the leader of a traffic jam, with a while train of cars stuck behind him.

Raikkonen is setting a remorseless pace, setting a new fastest lap (17.108) as he stretches his lead to 2.1s. Montoya is twelfth but unable to get past Barrichello. Meanwhile, Ralf is up to fifteenth, but 5.2s behind Friesacher.

Another fastest lap for the Finn (17.052) as the first eight cars are covered by 13.6s.

On lap 6, Alonso hits back with a fastest lap (16.865) as he closes to within 2.1s of the McLaren.

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