There had been whispers that Red Bull
were using Webber to back up the chasing pack in order to help promote his team-mate up the order, but the truth was that the Australian - and presumably those around him - were struggling to get heat into their fresher rubber as temperatures dropped and the suggestion of rain returned.
Once again, however, the threats proved to be largely unfounded, save for the odd drop as the race drew to a close, leaving any overtaking opportunities to come about as the result of technical problems or sheer bloody-mindedness. Schumacher's race, which was never going to produce the win he had jokingly predicted at the start of the weekend, ended quietly as the gremlins first caused him to slow and then to retire to the pits.
Further back, Button remained mired behind Kovalainen even through the pit-stops, prompting the Briton to make lunges at the Caterham around both the chicane and the Swimming Pool. When the latter move resulted only in the McLaren
spinning, he tried again - once Kovalainen had been delayed by contact with Perez at Ste Devote - only to disappear down an escape road. After that, he decided to call it a day. Kovalainen, meanwhile, could have hoped for a shot at a maiden point for Caterham with just a little more attrition. Instead, he was left to rue his defence on Perez as their ensuing coming together broke his front wing and precipitated another stop for repairs, dropping him to 13th at the flag.
The combination of late-race drizzle and tyres that had done nearly 40 laps then produced a tense finale as the top five closed up, with Webber holding sway over Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton. Despite the odd look, there were no concerted moves, no slip-ups from the man in front, and no repeat of the midfield shunt that caused last year's race to be halted with just a handful of laps to run.
Massa wasn't quite close enough to the top five to influence the finishing order, while a massive 35-second chasm stretched to the next runners, as Paul di Resta led Force India
team-mate Nico Hulkenberg
home in seventh and eighth. Both had managed to jump Raikkonen during the Finn's pit-stop, while Bruno Senna finished just half a second shy of the Lotus after being promoted into the points by Schumacher's exit. Perez, who had a fraught race that included numerous trips over the chicane, impeding Raikkonen and incurring a drive-thru' as the Sauber team summoned him for a pit-stop, and then setting the fastest lap of all, came home in eleventh, just ahead of Vergne, who made the odd choice of intermediates at his late second stop.
Keeping the order the same to the flag meant that, despite not having led a lap or stood on the podium before Monaco, Webber became the sixth different winner in as many races to start the 2012 season, and pushed the Australian right back into the title hunt. Alonso's third place moved him three points clear of the tie he previously found himself in with Vettel, who now finds his team-mate sharing second spot with him.
Then the rain arrived.....
What odds Canada producing a seventh different winner? With the likes of Hamilton, Schumacher and Raikkonen still to open their victory account in 2012, and the likes of Grosjean offering an alternative to the established names, it is possible, but the action will need to be better than in the Principality to keep the season's buzz alive.