Thundering down the main straight in a cloud of spray, it appeared that Coulthard had the speed advantage approaching the Senna 'S', but matters were complicated by the presence of Tarso Marques Minardi, which the leaders were catching at a fair rate of knots. In circumstances reminiscent of Hakkinen's pass of Schumacher at Spa last year, the two frontrunners went either side of the hapless Brazilian, and this time it was Coulthard who came off best, taking the inside route to pass both of his rivals. Schumacher fought to hold the advantage through the second part of the complex, but Coulthard showed the steely will he developed in 2000 to hold on and, eventually, pull away from the Ferrari.
From then on it was relatively plain sailing for the Scot, save for having to find damp patches to preserve his rubber when the sun re-appeared. Others attempting the same tactic fell foul of the occasional puddle - both Schumachers among them - but Coulthard survived to finally end the six-race domination established by Ferrari
in recent months.
Michael followed him across the line at a discreet 16secs distance, but there was still incident aplenty ready to alter the make-up of the top six.
The two Jordans appeared to take on full wet rubber at the rain-inspired pit-stop, and struggled to make an impact as the track began to dry. Frentzen, however, was running in third place when his car cried enough, handing a rare podium spot to the proficient Nick Heidfeld. The younger German had lost team-mate and tail-gunner Raikkonen to a late race spin, but soldiered on to take full advantage of others' problems and take a deserved four points.
Behind him, Trulli, in the other Jordan, looked set for fourth, only to be mugged in the closing stages by Panis in the BAR. The Frenchman had been impressive all day, taking seventh in the warm-up and making rapid in-roads through the field once the lights went out for real after lunch. His first climb into the points was negated by the need for an early pit-stop, as was his second when the rain came, but no-one was going to deprive him of at least fourth place, which he secured by carving past Trulli and Jean Alesi in the final few laps.
Trulli held on for fifth, but Alesi's hopes of giving beleaguered team boss Alain Prost his first point for more than a year were dashed when Fisichella's Benetton, on a better tyre choice, appeared alongside him through the infield. Alesi had no defence against the Italian, and it was Fisi who netted the most unexpected score of the day for the equally browbeaten Enstone outfit.
Villeneuve took a disappointed seventh from an afternoon the promised a possible first podium for BAR, finishing ahead of survivors like Alesi, Marques and Jenson Button, who lost a handful of laps while the Benetton boys attempted to get his B201 back on track after a mid-race technical problem.
On April Fools' Day in his homeland, however, perhaps it was fitting that Coulthard turned tricks at the front of the field. The Scot had been a podium regular in the opening two races, and thoroughly deserved to be there again this time. Even his heart, however, will go out to the luckless Montoya...
1. David Coulthard
71 laps 1hr 39mins 00.384secs
2. Michael Schumacher
3. Nick Heidfeld
4. Olivier Panis
5. Jarno Trulli