David Coulthard gave himself and McLaren-Mercedes a welcome shot in the arm by leading the Monaco Grand Prix from start to finish and breaking the run of success established by Michael Schumacher.

Despite starting on the unfancied outside of the grid, Coulthard made a demon start to out-run polesitter Juan Montoya to Ste Devote. The Colombian later complained about his launch control, claiming it had not worked perfectly, but it was still a great getaway from Coulthard who, it would transpired, was fuelled for distance.

The field managed to negotiate the opening corner, although Jacques Villeneuve had to be pushed off the grid and restarted in pit-lane before resuming after the field had gone by. The pack also managed to get around Grand in tact, but Coulthard was already easing away from the chasing group, headed by Montoya, but with both Schumacher brothers in close attendance. Michael had held his third position through the first few corners, while Ralf slotted into fourth ahead of Jarno Trulli.

The Italian made full use of Renault's renowned launch software to leap-frog Kimi Raikkonen who, in turn, got away in front of the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. The two Toyotas and Heinz-Harald Frentzen completed the top ten, as Jenson Button dropped right back to 17th. In contrast to his team-mate, the young Briton lurched, stopped and pulled to one side while he re-fired the R202. To make matters worse, he was then assessed a drive-thru penalty for allegedly jumping the start, meaning that he was 20th by the end of lap five.

Three laps later, Coulthard's advantage - which had hovered at a full second from lap one - disappeared completely, as the trip behind him closed up approaching Mirabeau. Fastest laps from both Schumachers ensured that Montoya also had no breathing space, but both the front two held firm until lap 14, when DC again began to pull away.

Not long afterwards, fellow Scot Allan McNish became the first retirement, clipping the inside kerb at Ste Devote while tailing team-mate Mika Salo and burying the front of his TF102 into the outside tyre wall. The safety car was readied by not used, which no doubt gave Coulthard cause for relief as he continued to hold sway over the field.

With the exception of Montoya, the rest of the top four swapped fastest laps as the gaps between them remained static, leaving the crowd transfixed but forced to look further afield for overtaking attempts. Frentzen was among those on the move, taking advantage of a slowed Salo on lap 19 to move into eighth, while both Jordans also closed in on the Toyota man.

Villeneuve's problems saw him lapped as early as the 20th tour, and the Canadian offered no undue resistance to the leaders as they filed past him, but the front four were soon to face another peril at the same spot close to the chicane.

The progress being made by both Jordan drivers soon saw them on the tail of Salo's ailing Toyota, and it was Takuma Sato who was first to dive past the Finn at Mirabeau. Salo offered little resistance to team-mate Fisichella and the two yellow cars continued to lap in close proximity for another couple of laps before Sato, following team orders, attempted to make room for his quicker team-mate.

Unfortunately for the Japanese rookie, he picked the fastest part of the track to make his move, but ran wide into the 'marbles' and clouted the outside wall of the tunnel. From there, the badly damaged EJ12 was nothing more than a carbon-fibre toboggan as it careered towards the Nouvelle Chicane. Thankfully, Sato was unhurt in the incident, and climbed out of damaged Jordan to walk back to the pits. Fisichella reacted quickly enough to avoid contact with his team-mate, and did not lose a place.

Sato's exit and Salo's pit-call created the only changes in the top ten before the next incident, which occurred just five laps later. This time the action took place outside of the leading group, when Enrique Bernoldi, frustrated at being held up by the wayward Felipe Massa, finally found a way past his fellow Brazilian on the home straight. The Arrows driver completed the move successfully, but did not count on Massa locking up in his wake and pushing him down the escape road at Ste Devote. Neither car retired in the incident, but Massa was called in for a penalty that dropped him to 18th.

At the same time as the Brazilian served his punishment, Coulthard got the next warning that his race would not be a stroll to the flag. Exiting the tunnel on lap 30, the Scot's McLaren blew a cloud of blue smoke from its left exhaust, and continued to do so at sporadic intervals over the next few laps. Fearing a possible engine failure, DC radioed the pit but, on being told that there was nothing to worry about, kept his foot in.

The tunnel-chicane stretch continued to provide the most interesting events of the race when Rubens Barrichello ran into the back of Kimi Raikkonen approaching the tight left-hander, breaking off the nose of the Ferrari and damaging the rear of the second McLaren. While the Brazilian was able to continue after a pit-stop, however, Raikkonen - surely the unluckiest man of the year so far - was forced to call it quits after two spells under the scrutiny of the mechanics. Barrichello did not get away lightly, however, and picked up two penalties in quick succession for his part in the incident and then speeding in pit-lane.

Still the order remained unchanged at the front but, with the pit-stop window approaching, the three teams involved in the battle knew that the next few laps could be key to victory.

Shortly after Trulli stopped from fifth, Michael Schumacher peeled the Ferrari into pit-lane, hoping to break free of traffic and get some quick laps in to cut Coulthard's lead. The Scuderia turned the F2002 around in 8.5secs, returning Schumacher to the fray in fourth. This then became third without any of his rivals pitting, as Montoya suddenly slowed on the home straight, allowing his team-mate to go through before touring around another lap into retirement with a blown BMW.

Ralf pitted two laps later, doing enough top hold onto third when he rejoined, but all eyes were already on the closing gap at the front, where the older of the Schumacher brothers was reeling Coulthard in with the help of successive lap records. McLaren had to act quickly and did so, pulling the Scot in on lap 51 while he still had enough of an advantage to get back out before the Ferrari appeared. The trick worked perfectly, with the black-suited mechanics turning DC around in just 6.9secs and releasing him back into the race as Schumacher round La Rascasse.

The gap was less than a second by the time the two adversaries crossed the line next time, and threatened to close further when the safety car was readied in anticipation of a difficult clear-up operation following a collision between Olivier Panis and Jenson Button. The Briton, frustrated by his early problems, had closed his French rival down before attempting an ambitious pass at Ste Devote. Caught out by the bottleneck corner, however, Panis turned across the bows of the Renault, putting both out of the race.

Able to ease out a gap in clear air, Coulthard's biggest fear was being baulked by backmarkers. He need not have worried, as the slower runners behaved impeccably, and, on lap 57, the Scot would have smiled to himself as he was waved by Bernoldi's Arrows - the car that caused so much - unjustified - controversy twelve months earlier. Only the luckless Trulli, who found himself harried by the leaders from Mirabeau to the chicane, and one final potential safety car period, proved a delay to Coulthard.

Again the safety car was alerted for an incident at Ste Devote, this time the most concerning of them all. Despite running alone, Massa's Sauber seemed reluctant to slow in time for the tight right-hander, and the young Brazilian speared into the barriers at barely abated speed, his front tyres locked solid. Having rebounded into the middle of the run-off area, Massa took some time to extricate himself from the cockpit, but was later able to return to the pits on foot. The safety car stayed put.

Coulthard and Schumacher continued to run at about a second's gap, the German not willing to risk six valuable points unless an opportunity presented itself. He was also under no threat from third, as his younger brother headed to the pits for a new left rear after a problem with the tread suddenly reared its head on lap 65. With a massive advantage over fourth-placed Trulli, the Williams driver was able to resume still in a podium position, but now over a minute adrift of his brother.

The final incident of the afternoon saw the unfortunate Salo hit the barriers on the crest of Massanet, the apparent victim of front wheel bearing failure. With the tyre smoking, the Finn was turned left, and clipped the kerb on the inside before being pushed across the road and into the barriers. Again, the marshals worked sharply enough to prevent any safety car requirement, and the race continued without any artificial intervention.

While the lead was being closely disputed, so too were the points for fourth and sixth. Trulli had regained his mid-race spot after pitting, but was now coming under pressure from the flying Fisichella. The renowned Monaco expert closed remorselessly on his fellow Italian and almost made it through when the leaders caught the Renault driver at the chicane. Rebuffed by Trulli, however, the Jordan driver had to be content with a second successive fifth place.

Further back, Barrichello was recovering from his three-stop race to close on Frentzen, who now occupied the final scoring spot. Again, the tight confines of the street circuit prevented the Brazilian from trying anything too risky, and the Arrows team was able to celebrate its second point as Frentzen played a canny game to prevent the Ferrari from getting close enough to pass.

The race win was McLaren's however, as Schumacher backed off on the last lap, accepting that he had been beaten by the better car-driver-tyre combination on the day. One second separated the two leaders as the flag unfurled, but that didn't matter to a jubilant Coulthard.

Race results:

1. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes 78 laps 1hr 45min 39.055secs
2. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +01.050secs
3. Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW +1min 17.450secs
4. Jarno Trulli Italy Renault-Renault +1 lap
5. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Jordan-Honda +1 lap
6. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Arrows-Cosworth +1 lap

7. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +1 lap
8. Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas +2 laps
9. Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +2 laps
10. Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth +2 laps
11. Mark Webber Australia Minardi-Asiatech +2 laps
12. Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Cosworth +2 laps

Rtd Mika Salo Finland Toyota-Toyota 70 laps completed
Rtd Felipe Massa Brazil Sauber-Petronas 64 laps completed
Rtd Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 52 laps completed
Rtd Jenson Button Britain Renault-Renault 52 laps completed
Rtd Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW 47 laps completed
Rtd Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda 45 laps completed
Rtd Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 42 laps completed
Rtd Alex Yoong Malaysia Minardi-Asiatech 30 laps completed
Rtd Takuma Sato Japan Jordan-Honda 23 laps completed
Rtd Allan McNish Britain Toyota-Toyota 16 laps completed

Fastest lap:

Rubens Barrichello Ferrari-Ferrari +1min 18.023secs lap 68 new lap record