May 23rd, 2013 (AFP) - Nico Rosberg maintained his and the Mercedes team's utter domination of one-lap Formula One speed by topping the times again in Thursday afternoon's second free practice session for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old German, who was fastest in the morning's opening session and who is seeking a third successive pole position, clocked a best time of minute and 14.759 seconds to top the times three-tenths of a second ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The Mercedes pair, who also clocked up high mileage -- Hamilton did a race distance of 78 laps during the day's work, proved they are the team to beat as they finished clear of nearest rivals Ferrari and left defending triple world champion Sebastian Vettel struggling to keep pace.
But Rosberg was reluctant to talk about his chances of taking a hat-trick of poles in Saturday's qualifying.
"I'm feeling comfortable in the car, but we don't know what people are doing with fuel loads," he said.
"We're somewhere towards the front, but I don't know where we are exactly. It's way too early to think about it [pole position]. This is such a different circuit. It was a good day but I don't know what other people were doing."
Asked to discuss his longest run, which featured 27 laps on Pirelli's super-soft compound, Rosberg said: "Again we've made some progress, but I think there are still a couple of question marks.
"There will be a few pit-stops in this race, two or one. We just have to try and get degradation as good as possible -- as it really helps."
Hamilton believes Mercedes can look forward to a successful weekend.
"Some of the others are looking pretty quick, but we have good pace ourselves," said a satisfied Hamilton. "Nico is looking really quick this weekend, so it is looking good."
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, has clearly given Rosberg greater motivation since moving to the Mercedes team this season -- between them they have been on pole for the last three races in China, Bahrain and Spain.
Hamilton is currently fourth in the drivers' championship and knows he faces a major challenge not only from his rivals, but also his friend and team-mate who lives almost next door in the same apartment block in Monte Carlo.
Ferrari's flying duo of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were third and fourth fastest ahead of Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth ahead of his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean, who suffered a major crash midway through the session in which his car was seriously damaged. He was unhurt.
Grosjean, trying to avoid accidents and controversy this season, slid into the barriers at Sainte Devote on only his 11th lap.
"It is not a big deal," said Grosjean.
"It's a bit of a shame, as we lost some time, but the confidence is there. I locked up when I was already into the corner so unfortunately there was nothing I could really do."
Jenson Button was eighth for McLaren ahead of ninth-placed Vettel and Paul Di Resta in the leading Force India.