David Coulthard completed his personal grand slam of Formula One victories this afternoon, adding Monaco to previous wins at Silverstone, Monza and Spa.
The Scot was in the right place at the right time to inherit victory from the dominant, but ultimately luckless, Michael Schumacher, but drove a mature race around the Principality's mean streets to take his second win of the season.
The event began under the usual suspense of whether everybody would make it through the first corner and, after Schumacher's retirement with suspension failure, effectively began again as the scramble for places assumed higher stakes. Alex Wurz was the first man guilty of causing a delay, stalling his Benetton after it began smoking ominously as the grid reformed, and then, at the second time of asking, the red flags appeared before the field had made it as far as the tunnel.
Although the obvious reason for the stoppage appeared to be the roadblock caused by Jenson Button
and Pedro de la Rosa
tangling at the Grand Hotel hairpin, there was some concern that the race computer had not started with the pack leaving the grid. Whatever, it took some time for the track to be cleared and, with the stricken cars being craned away rather than restarted, for the drivers to run back to the pits.
At the third attempt, the race eventually got underway, with all but the unfortunate de la Rosa able to take part. The Spaniard had already suffered two crashes in the weekend and was left without a car, while Button, Nick Heidfeld
and Marc Gene
joined Wurz in starting from the pits.
As they had on take two, the field managed to safely negotiate Ste Devote as second on the grid Jarno Trulli
opted to tuck in behind the pole-sitting Schumacher instead of trying to outdrag him to the first corner. Team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen followed suit from fourth, forcing Mika Hakkinen - in fifth - to hold station. The Finn had already passed his German rival at the second start, but would now be forced to stare at his exhausts as the race proceeded in orderly fashion almost to the one-third mark.
Further back, Ralf Schumacher opted for the aggressive route at the start, and found himself in sixth as the field streamed up the Beau Rivage. Jean Alesi, behind him, had also made up a place by passing Rubens Barrichello
off the line, but then found himself pushed back by Schumacher's charge.
At the front, another Schumacher charge was already opening out a clear advantage over the pack, as Michael pushed his Ferrari
some three seconds at the end of the second lap. The gap continued to grow at a rate of around a second a lap thereafter, and the German appeared to have the race in his pocket by the time the first retirements began to gather behind the barriers.
As the field found itself running line astern, with very little change of order, mechanical sympathy began to become the order of the day. Track temperatures of around 40 degrees had been recorded before the original formation lap, and the effect of the heat on the cars was a major concern along pit-road.