Sensibly, Raikkonen used the full extent of his lap allowance before making the call, and was rewarded by opening out enough of a gap that, when he rejoined, he had only dropped to fourth. Hamilton had similarly benefited from the pace the frontrunners had enjoyed at the time of his mishap and, with Raikkonen crawling past the garages, was able to move up one place, back into third.
Renault's decision to fit the extreme wets to Alonso's R28 was also paying dividends. Not having lost too much time pitting after his error, the Spaniard was quickly back into the points positions, and the scythed down the inside of Mark Webber
at Mirabeau to claim sixth. Next time around, the Renault
was harassing Heidfeld at the same spot, but the German was not about to make it easy. Covering the inside for several laps, the BMW
remained in front, but only served to frustrate Alonso, who sensed a shot into Loews. Sadly for both men, the gap was not Renault
sized, and Heidfeld was nudged into a lazy spin that only served to delay all involved and immediately behind.
Alonso also had to pit for a new nose, after Heidfeld had recovered by driving over his front wing, while the German did not get off unscathed, his left rear suffering a slow puncture that left him struggling with wayward handling until pitting three laps later, on lap 17.
The other BMW
Sauber, however, was enjoying a much more fruitful afternoon, with Kubica now leading the pursuit of Massa. With the conditions playing into the intrepid Pole's hands, the white machine was lapping some seven-tenths faster than the Ferrari. Whether the pressure told on Massa was unclear, but next time around, the Brazilian sailed off into the escape road at Ste Devote, all four wheels locked up on the wet surface. Kubica duly seized the advantage with both hands, passing Massa as the Brazilian attempted to rejoin and quickly opening out a couple of seconds lead.
The wet weather was also providing rare opportunities for unexpected names to shine, with Adrian Sutil
taking his Force India
into the top ten and easily holding his own. The young German many not have enjoyed the happiest of starts to the season, but was looking at home in a wet Monaco, just as he had done during the third and final practice session last season.
While team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella
struggled, and ultimately succumbed, with the loss of second gear in his 200th GP, Sutil latched onto the rear of Webber's Red Bull, following the Australian past the struggling Heidfeld and into sixth. Likewise, Rubens Barrichello
was running eighth, with Kazuki Nakajima, Piquet and Sebastian Vettel
giving chase. Behind the German, Heikki Kovalainen
continued to make up ground after stalling on the warm-up lap, and was now circulating in twelfth.
By lap 22, and with the rain having been gone for a while, times began to tumble, with Kubica and Massa swapping fastest marks as the gap between them ebbed and flowed slightly. Such was the leaders' pace that the chasing Hamilton and Raikkonen were some two seconds a lap adrift.
Kubica ended the exchange by pitting for the first time on lap 26, BMW
opting to fit the standard wet as Massa reclaimed top spot. The Pole returned to the track just as Raikkonen was passing pit exit, and the BMW
appeared to distract the Finn, who reprised his team-mate's trip into the escape road at the opening corner. Unlike Massa, however, the world champion had made contact with the barrier and would have to make his own stop at the end of the lap, the F2008's front wing dangling precariously from its mounts.
Just as Sutil was benefiting from Jarno Trulli's travails on the extreme wet, which slowed the Toyota
and those behind it, so Raikkonen also capitalised, slotting into the gap behind the Force India, as Hamilton joined those chasing fastest lap honours.
The Briton had suddenly come to life, and was trading quick times with Webber's RB4 as the target continued to come down in leaps. Massa, too, wasn't to be out-done and banged in a new benchmark just prior to pitting. The gap back to Hamilton wasn't big enough for the Brazilian, however, and he duly resumed in second spot, having regained track position on Kubica during their respective stops.