Monte Carlo:After being upstaged by Ferrari and McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton so far this season, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso is back on track.
Ferrari had won all four pole positions this season but Alonso was fastest in qualifying on Saturday and will start the Monaco Grand Prix at the top of the grid ahead of Hamilton, who leads the standings.
The Spaniard completed the 3.34-kilometer (2.076-mile) twisting street circuit in 1 minute, 15.726 seconds for the 16th pole of his career but the first since the Chinese GP in October.
'To be in pole position here is very, very important and the first pole (this season) for McLaren is very important," said Alonso, who led Thursday's practice sessions. "All weekend has been quite good for us."
Hamilton was next in 1:15.905. Felipe Massa of Ferrari, who took the pole in the last three races, was third in 1:15.967 for Sunday's 78-lap race.
In his debut F1 season, Hamilton leads the standings with 30 points, two ahead of Alonso. Massa is third with 27 points.
"I had a fantastic qualifying then it started to rain in the middle of the session. I was in P1 at the time and I was hoping it would continue," Hamilton said. "It was a bit of a gamble a bit of a lottery."
Alonso agreed that the weather would be crucial.
"Regarding the weather conditions, it may be a bit of lottery," Alonso said. "The team said four different things in one hour. The weather is changing so quickly.
"Even starting on pole position we have to be calm."
Hamilton said the start won't be an aggressive sprint to the first turn between the teammates.
"We have great respect for each other and we know we have to do our best for the team," he said.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 16th after his Ferrari had suspension problems in the second 15-minute session, stopping on the next-to-last turn of the circuit and struggling to get back to the pits.
David Coulthard, originally credited with no time for the second session, moved up to 11th with his original second session time but was then dropped two places because of interference in qualifying.
Massa nearly hit him coming around the turn, but avoided a crash by slowing past Raikkonen.
"I just saw the yellow flag. It was a little bit of a moment I just managed to pass by without touching," Massa said.
Massa has won the last two races and is looking to continue his streak.
"I am in a good position for tomorrow's race. I am confident," the Brazilian said. "The race here is very long and it is vital to maintain concentration."
Saturday's morning practice session was hampered by rain with Adrian Sutil of Spyker recording the fastest time, more than 20 seconds slower than qualifying.
"It was very surprising to see my name at the top of the times after practice, but I was obviously very pleased. It was a perfect run," Sutil said.
Sutil ended up 19th of 22 cars in the afternoon when conditions were dry. It was his best qualifying of the season in a time of 1:18.418.
Last season in Monaco, Michael Schumacher was stripped of the pole after stewards ruled he'd stopped on the track and hampered Alonso, who won the race from the top spot on the grid.