Ralf Schumacher produced a controlled drive at Sepang to add a fourth grand prix victory to his resume, and notch up the first Williams 1-2 finish since the Portuguese Grand Prix in 1996.
The German had to bide his time in a race-long battle with early leader Rubens Barrichello, but benefited when his single-stop strategy played out over the closing laps. His margin of victory was later extended when the Brazilian retired with engine failure, producing the historic 1-2 as Juan Montoya inherited second place.
Schumacher and Barrichello, combatants over a far shorter distance in Melbourne two weeks ago, should not have been the pace-setters, however, but were given the reins when front row starters Montoya and Michael Schumacher clashed at the first corner.
Although not having the devastating effect of the opening lap in Melbourne, the incident served to delay both pre-race favourites. Schumacher carved across in front of Montoya's Williams as soon as the lights went out, and held the inside line as long as he could on the long drag run to the Selangor S.
Montoya's prodigious BMW power had the Williams running neck-and-neck by the time the pair reached the first right-hander, however, but appeared to pinch Schumacher onto the inside kerb as they turned in. Schumacher, later claiming a touch of understeer, then ran off the painted surface, collecting Montoya just behind his front wheel and pushing the Colombian to the outside of the corner.
His wing broken off in the impact, Schumacher had to watch as the field streamed past his hobbled Ferrari, finally making it back to the pits trailing the pack. Montoya, meanwhile, rejoined in the midfield and promptly began to work his way back towards the front.
At the end of the opening lap, the Colombian was on the fringes of the top ten, but trailed leader Barrichello by some distance. The Brazilian was also beginning to eke out a gap to Schumacher Jr, the Williams clearly running a heavier fuel load than the Ferrari. The rest of the points-paying places at this point were occupied by the two McLarens - Kimi Raikkonen having got away ahead of team-mate David Coulthard - with Nick Heidfeld and Jenson Button in fifth and sixth, having moved up two places apiece as a result of the first corner incident.
The excitement didn't end there, however, for Montoya's comeback soon had him on the tail of Jarno Trulli and Mika Salo, with places changing between them over the next few laps. Jordan twins Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella were also running in close company, which became a little too close when the Japanese rookie ran into, and over, his Italian team-mate on lap two.
It appeared that Fisichella was forced to back off behind Allan McNish's Toyota, catching Sato slightly off guard as they rounded turn two. With nowhere to go at the speed he was travelling, the Japanese driver ended up using the other Jordan as a ramp, breaking front and rear wings of each car respectively. Both returned to the pits together, but Sato was able to rejoin sooner as Fisi's car underwent remedial surgery.