Alonso tops opening Monaco GP practice sessions

Fernando Alonso was fastest in Monao Grand Prix practice on Thursday, while Michael Schumacher's return to the famed street circuit after four years out saw the Mercedes driver finish fifth.

Alonso marked Formula One's 60th anniversary by topping both sessions, with the Ferrari driver's afternoon lap of 1 minute, 14.904 around the Mediterranean principality the quickest of the 24 cars.

Schumacher's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was just over one-enth of a second off the pace for second ahead of weekend favorite Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.

Felipe Massa finished in front of his former Ferrari teammate Schumacher - a five-time winner at the iconic racing track - who set a fastest time of 1:15.143 from 59 laps.

Robert Kubica of Renault finished ixth ahead of 2008 winner Lewis Hamilton, who was nearly four-tenths faster than teammate and overall F1 leader Jenson Button. Button was ninth behind Adrian Sutil of Force India.

Mark Webber, coming off a victory in Barcelona, rounded out the top-10 for Red Bull with a lap of 1:15.620 as gray clouds shadowed the circuit and cooled off the crowds that had gathered on moored trackside yachts to watch.

Button comes into the season's sixth race with 70 points to lead Alonso by three, while Vettel is third with 60 points and Webber next with 53.

There were few incidents over the two sessions as Schumacher managed to regain control after losing grip on a number of occasions.

Only the new drivers on the circuit came close to hitting one of the tight barrier's on the track. HRT's rookie pair of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna both escaped trouble as Chandhok lost grip in Massenet in the morning to lightly tap the barrier after spinning out. Senna, who finished more than 7 seconds back of Alonso in a troublesome car, came to a halt around the corner after Mirabeau in the afternoon.

Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber went off at Mirabeau in the sunny morning session and lost his front wing with a missed exit at the Swimming Pool.

Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari lost control coming out of the Tunnel and had to cut across the chicane to regain control at one point.