Michael Schumacher took another giant step towards his fifth world championship by winning the Canadian Grand Prix, taking advantage of good strategy, a little luck and the misfortune of his closest rivals.
The German started from the front row of the grid, but it was clear early on that he was running for one fuel stop and would pace his race accordingly. As early as the opening corner, he allowed lighter team-mate Rubens Barrichello
by to hound pole-sitter Juan Montoya and, as the 70-lap event unfolded, was best placed to move to the front, sealing Ferrari's 150th grand prix win in the process.
Montoya had hoped to make a break as the lights went out, but had not bargained on Barrichello being able to catapult his lightweight F2002 onto his tail by the opening corner - and into the lead at the same place next time around. Whether the Scuderia intended the Brazilian to act as hare to cover the bases in case of a incident-filled race, or to break Montoya's Williams, wasn't entirely clear but, by lap five, Barrichello was over a second to the good, and pulling further away.
Behind the equally rapid Montoya, Schumacher had slipped back, although not yet into the clutches of fourth-placed Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn made a good getaway to vault past Ralf Schumacher in the second Williams, putting the German in the middle of a McLaren
sandwich as team-mate David Coulthard
gained two places from eighth. The Scot relegated both Giancarlo Fisichella
and Nick Heidfeld, who also passed the Italian, off the start, but it soon became clear that the majority of the top ten was attempting to complete the distance on a single stop.
Already scuppered in his attempt to do likewise was Pedro de la Rosa, who celebrated his reported three-year contract extension with a spot of wall banging, having first touched wheels with Toyota's Allan McNish. The brush triggered poor races for both men, with de la Rosa rejoining after a quick stop but eventually retiring on lap 29 and McNish running midfield until his gearbox started playing tricks, ultimately spinning him out of the race with 25 laps to run.
Enrique Bernoldi and Jacques Villeneuve - who continues to endure massive bad luck in his home race - were also early retirements, but the midfield provided much of the initial excitement as runners caught out by the qualifying weather conditions attempted to make up places on light fuel loads. Chief among these were the second Toyota
of Mika Salo - who moved from 18th to eleventh in the first 14 laps, and Takuma Sato, who belied his lack of track experience with spirited overtaking moves on both BARs. The Japanese driver even had the awareness, having passed Olivier Panis by jumping the chicane, to allow the Frenchman back through - before passing him cleanly next time around.
Villeneuve's retirement, the first of the race, was also to severely dent Barrichello's hopes of winning the race. The Canadian parked his powerless car off the racing line alongside the wall bordering the run down from the hairpin, but the marshals' efforts to move it proved fruitless, leaving race control with no option but to deploy the safety car.
While Montoya took the opportunity to dive for the pits, Barrichello was left out to lead the field around behind Bernd Maylander's Mercedes, his lead over third placed team-mate Schumacher eradicated at a stroke. Montoya's stop, meanwhile, whilst elongated by the need to remove leaf debris from the sidepods, was quick enough to return him to the fray in fifth, immediately behind his own team-mate and well set to maintain his challenge for victory.
The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap 17 but, by then, both Bernoldi had seen his hopes of points vanish. The Brazilian made two stops under the yellow flag period to investigate a rear wheel problem, before retiring with what the Arrows team believed to be a hub problem.