MONACO, May 22, 2013 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso raised his and many other eyebrows in the cramped, crowded and rain-hit paddock on Wednesday when he made Mercedes favourites to win Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix and took a swipe at rivals Red Bull.
The two-time champion Ferrari driver said he felt Red Bull's recent criticism of Pirelli's tyres was proof, above all, that they are a team that cannot handle defeat.
The Spaniard also pointed out that Mercedes, who were fastest in qualifying last year through now-retired seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, have reeled off three straight poles.
"Mercedes will be strong," said Alonso.
"They have been on pole position for the last three Grands Prix so we expect them to be very strong again. They were on pole position last year with Michael before his penalty.
"We know how difficult it is to overtake, if they are on pole position they are favourites."
In a feisty session with reporters ahead of this weekend's 71st running of the classic street race, he was asked to respond to comments made by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz who had claimed that F1 was no longer anything to do with racing.
Alonso hit back by saying: "When you win too easily for some year,s it is difficult to lose some races...
"Barcelona was a good race -- not so good for our competitors. Some of them claim they have a super car, but the last three pole positions were for another car when the tyres were new.
"Maybe they are not so fast as they think?"
Alonso made clear too that he is keen to claim his own third Monaco win and with a third different team having won the event with Renault in 2006 and then again with McLaren a year later.
Ferrari have not won the Monaco Grand Prix for 12 years and Alonso would dearly love to claim their ninth win in the Principality.
"Monaco is the most important race in the championship and I can be the first man to win for three different teams," he said. "So, yes, it is a good motivation for me."