Juan Montoya finally broke his grand prix duck after a solid workmanlike performance brought him victory in front of Ferrari
in the Italian Grand Prix
In truth, the event should have gone the Scuderia's way, even though it opted for an unusual two-stop strategy, but pit problems delayed its lead car enough to allow Montoya to sprint through for a win in the closing stages.
The race began under another cloud, following former F1 driver Alex Zanardi's horrific accident in the Lausitzring CART event, and, with last year's tragic Italian GP still firmly in the minds of many, a row broke out over whether the race should effectively start under yellow flags to prevent a repeat of the first lap accident that claimed the life of fire marshal Paolo Ghislimberti.
Despite the best efforts of Michael Schumacher - who, it should be noted, had nothing to gain from a 'no overtaking' rule after qualifying only third - neither the drivers nor their employers could reach a consensus, and the race began in normal fashion with the rush towards Rettifilio.
Thankfully, most of the 22 starters used their heads and, with one exception, the entire field made it through the right-left complex unscathed. The unlucky man was Jarno Trulli, who was tipped into a spin by the impetuous Jenson Button, as the Benetton driver attempted to use his impressive launch control software to full effect. It was of little consolation to the Italian that his potential 2002 team-mate lost his nose and, three laps later, his engine.
At the front of the field, Montoya was far enough ahead not to be caught up in the minor melee behind him, and led through the second chicane as well. Barrichello, from second on the grid, also held station, but there was a brief skirmish between the Schumacher brothers at the first Lesmo, as Michael stuck his Ferrari
firmly up the inside of Ralf's Williams
to maintain third spot.
The opening laps suggested nothing other than a Montoya victory, the Colombian gradually easing out a one second advantage over the chasing Barrichello, but things were never quite as they seemed at Monza.
With the tifosi
abnormally subdued after the week's events, Barrichello slowly reeled the leader back in, apparently taking advantage of Michelin's known early lap degradation. By lap nine, the Brazilian was in front, passing his quarry when Montoya out-braked himself approaching the Roggia chicane, and, by lap ten, was already pulling away.
Montoya's 'problem' now dropped him into the grasp of Schumacher, the second Ferrari
quickly gobbling up the gap to the Williams
and shaping to pass it, although this never quite happened. Ralf, in the second of the blue-and-white cars was already dropping back, the problems of Friday and Saturday seemingly unresolved.