Kimi Raikkonen proved to be Mercedes' 'diamond geezer' in Monaco, celebrating the German marque's 200th grand prix with a convincing win on the streets of the principality.
Having secured pole position with a controlled lap in Sunday morning's second qualifying, the Finn was best placed to seize the advantage heading into Ste Devote for the first time, and so it proved, despite the best efforts of a fast-starting Fernando Alonso. The Renault
driver had a quick look to the inside of Raikkonen's McLaren, as the leader locked both front wheels momentarily under braking, but Raikkonen was quick to cover the move and lead the field up the hill towards Casino Square.
It was an intact field in the Finn's wake too, the 18 starters all somehow avoiding the traditional first corner accident to fall into single file up Beau Rivage. They weren't all in the same order that they had assumed on the grid, however, for Mark Webber
again made a poor getaway in the Williams, dropping from a potential third to fifth behind both Giancarlo Fisichella
and Jarno Trulli. The Australian also came under threat from team-mate Nick Heidfeld, but just kept the German at bay into turn one.
Behind the two BMW-powered cars, the order remained largely the same, with David Coulthard
having held off Michael Schumacher, and only Felipe Massa
really making up ground, vaulting his Sauber into ninth at the expense of team-mate Jacques Villeneuve and Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. By the end of the first lap, however, both Juan Montoya and Ralf Schumacher - forced to start 16th and 18th after their altogether different woes from Saturday - had begun to make ground, the Colombian already with both Minardis and both Jordans in his mirrors, as well as Schumacher's Toyota.
Aware of Alonso's potential, Raikkonen was clearly in no mood to hang about, starting his pursuit of fastest laps on the second tour and continuing to ease out a gap over the Spaniard that had reached three seconds by lap nine. Alonso tried to respond with a quick lap of his own in the midst of Raikkonen's escape, but it was the Finn who set the pace as the top three began to pull out a cushion over the pack snarled up behind Trulli's Toyota.
Traffic, always a problem on the tight streets, came into play by lap 15, with Narain Karthikeyan already hobbled by a misbehaving Jordan and team-mate Tiago Monteiro unable to live with the two Minardis. Raikkonen, however, only lost the merest hint of a second passing the slower cars, any deficit quickly regained as those behind him followed suit.
The Finn's first real 'problem' came when Christijan Albers spun his Minardi at Mirabeau - even though the McLaren
was on the far side of the circuit at the time. The incident, which all but blocked the track, eventually brought out the safety car as Michael Schumacher, unsighted behind David Coulthard, collected the Red Bull
car as it jumped on the brakes. Although neither car joined Albers in facing the wrong way, Schumacher's Ferrari
lost its front wing and, in the delay while the German negotiated his own debris, half the field joined the queue. Coulthard, meanwhile, didn't even get to see the safety car, his rear suspension damaged in the collision.
The safety car remained out for two laps, but allowed the field to close back in on the leading McLaren
before letting it lose again on lap 28. Raikkonen, however, appeared typically unflustered by the sight of cars in his mirrors once more - perhaps because neither of the two directly behind him was now blue-and-yellow.
Taking advantage of the reduced pace, Renault
called both its cars in for fuel, queuing Fisichella behind Alonso to ensure both were serviced with as little delay as possible. Williams
did likewise with Webber and Heidfeld, while Sauber called for just Massa and Minardi for Patrick Friesacher. Schumacher, meanwhile, was fitted with a new rear wing and sent on his way, now down in 13th spot, directly behind his younger brother.