This year’s Monaco Grand prix is shaping up to be a bit of a corker, with a host of drivers vying for the fastest time in this afternoon’s second practice session.

Ferrari are chasing their first win in the principality in a decade this weekend, and Fernando Alonso looks right in the hunt to do just that. The Spaniard set a best time of 1.15.123 to top the timesheets, just as he did in Monaco FP2 last season. Alonso is chasing his own piece of history this weekend, as he seeks to become the first man to win the most famous race on the F1 calendar with three different teams.

And with team-mate Felipe Massa ending the session a fighting sixth fastest – a little over half a second off Alonso – Ferrari are looking strong on the Monte Carlo Streets. Felipe looked on the ragged edge every time we caught sight of him, his hands a blur as he somehow kept the Ferrari on the narrow strip of road and out of the barriers.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton ended up second fastest, the 2008 race winner recording a lap 0.105 seconds shy of pacesetter Alonso. Lewis also looks capable of fighting right at the front this weekend. Mercedes Nico Rosberg kept up his team’s run of solid practice results with third, followed by the second McLaren of Button.

Sebastian Vettel was the fastest Red Bull in fifth, a lacklustre afternoon compared with his recent lofty results. Mark Webber meanwhile was eighth after missing the vast majority of FP1 with gearbox issues. Last year’s winner appears to have his work cut out as he guns for a second successive  pole in Monaco.

Photo: Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Also in the top ten were Michael Schumacher (seventh), Adrian Sutil (ninth) and Nick Heidfeld (tenth). Sutil in particular is enjoying a great start to the weekend, having been among the top ten in both sessions thus far.

Typically of Monaco there were yet more incidents in FP2, with Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock all running straight on at Ste Devote. Jaime Alguersuari did the same but couldn’t find the escape road and ended up buried in the barriers. Meanwhile Ferrari’s strong session was nearly spoiled at the start as Alonso came within inches of running to the back of a slow-running Massa around the final corner, whilst Vitaly Petrov hit the armco approaching the Nouvelle Chicane and lost his front wing in the dying minutes of the session.

So, perhaps for the first time this season, Red Bull don’t look nailed on for pole. They’ll be in the hunt tomorrow, but on the evidence of today so will the Ferraris and McLarens. It could be the most exciting qualifying session of 2011 thus far.