David Coulthard was not high on many peoples' list of Brazilian Grand Prix winners, but the Scot came through an unpredictable race to take his eleventh win, in mixed conditions at Interlagos.
Coulthard capitalised on another good start - helped by the inability of McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen to get away from the line - and was best placed to inherit the advantage when unexpected leader Juan Montoya was taken out of the race by an errant Jos Verstappen. Only championship leader Michael Schumacher then posed any threat to the Scot but, surprisingly, was unable to deal with him as conditions worsened.
The drama began even before the grid had formed, however, with local hero Rubens Barrichello having to run back to the pits as his Ferrari coasted to a halt on the formation lap. Sweating when he arrived, the Brazilian grew even more tense as his crew readied the spare - set up for team-mate Michael Schumacher - in a race against the clock. Just 30secs remained in his favour as Barrichello blasted out onto the track, joining the grid in time for the mechanics to make final adjustments as the lights began to count down to the start.
Back in sixth place after a frustrating qualifying session, the Brazilian was a prime candidate to collect Hakkinen when the lights finally went out but, remarkably, the entire field avoided the Finn's stricken McLaren as it lurched then died on third spot. The chaos it caused, however, allowed Juan Montoya - who started alongside Hakkinen - to vault into second place behind Schumacher, with Coulthard in third spot.
Ralf Schumacher, who had started alongside his brother on the front row, was bundled back to fifth in the confusion, with Jordan's Jarno Trulli also making the most of the situation to gain places. Barrichello was now seventh, having had to avoid those in front of him at the start.
With Hakkinen's car taking time to be removed, the appearance of the safety car - for the third race in a row - was a necessity, although the field had to find its own way past the stranded McLaren before even reaching the Mercedes as it wended its way out of pit-lane. Again, there was no drama on the startline as the 21 survivors avoided man and machine and, by the end of lap two, the obstacle was gone.
The tension was not, however, and Barrichello's nerve must have been close to bursting point as he appeared to miss his braking point at Descida de Lago and piled into the back of the hapless Ralf Schumacher. For the second race running, Ferrari spun Williams around, although, this time, Barrichello came off worst, losing his left front wheel and all of his nose wing in the contact. Out of the race, the Brazilian could only wave mournfully at the packed grandstands. And there was no sign of his specially-painted crash helmet becoming a souvenir on this occasion.
Schumacher resumed without his rear wing, losing four laps while a replacement was fitted, and turning what should have been his finest hour in a Formula One car into another test session. The German completed 54 laps in total before calling it a day after a spin across the grass.
His misfortune, however, was quite the opposite for team-mate Juan Montoya. As the cars crossed the line at the restart, the Colombian showed that his pre-season boast that he was scared of no-one was not a hollow one by diving down the inside of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at Senna, literally pushing the German wide through the middle part to claim the advantage on exit, and slowly eking out a gap.