Fernando Alonso answered all his critics of recent weeks with a flawless performance in qualifying for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, by scorching to pole position as his McLaren team utterly dominated the session.

The reigning double world champion has been somewhat overshadowed of late by the staggering progress of rookie team-mate Lewis Hamilton, but he put the young Briton firmly in his place around the narrow, unforgiving streets of the Principality, and in the process secured the maiden pole position of his McLaren career and the outfit's first of the 2007 campaign. Now he intends to add to that by repeating his victory there of 2006.

"I'm so happy to take my first pole position for McLaren-Mercedes here in Monaco," the Spaniard enthused afterwards. "The car has been working well throughout the weekend, and we have been competitive in all conditions. As always seems to happen in Monaco I got caught up in traffic on my last flying lap, but that is one of the challenges of this place.

"Qualifying was extremely stressful due to the constant threat of rain. We even started the third session on fresh tyres just in case. I don't know what the weather will bring tomorrow, which could make for an interesting race. Obviously pole position gives you the best possible start to the race, but there are 78 laps and as it's Monaco anything can happen. The car is quick, though, and we have a strong strategy so I'm hopeful of a good result."

Team principal Ron Dennis was equally delighted by the showing, one that saw McLaren lock out the front row for the first time since Spa-Francorchamps back in September, 2005. He remained, however, well aware it would be the performance in the race that truly mattered if the squad is to both maintain and extend its advantage in the drivers' and constructors tables.

"To have Fernando and Lewis on the front row for the Monaco Grand Prix is a well-deserved reward for all the hard work by the team so far this season," he stated. "Both drivers drove good qualifying laps and the team coped well with the challenges that the rain briefly brought. There is a long race in front of us though, so whilst we enjoy the moment we know that it's the race tomorrow that counts for us to retain our lead in both world championships."



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