Michael Schumacher finally broke the victory duck that has hung over both himself and Ferrari since the start of the 2003 Formula One season, but felt unable to celebrate at Imola following the death of his mother overnight.
In a poignant counterpoint to the tragic events of the weekend, the world champion shared the front row of the grid for the San Marino Grand Prix with brother Ralf, and it was the younger man who made the better start to lead the 20-strong field into Tamburello for the first time. Michael got marginally the better getaway, but it was BMW power which won the race to turn one.
Behind the two brothers, Rubens Barrichello managed to hold off Juan Montoya over the same stretch of tarmac, but there was a brief moment of chaos behind them as Mark Webber's Jaguar made a tardy start, forcing Jacques Villeneuve to take evasive action and seeing four cars run abreast as David Coulthard took to the grass after a good getaway. By the time the midfield had sorted itself out,Kimi Raikkonen had moved into fifth from sixth, with Fernando Alonso, Olivier Panis, Coulthard and Nick Heidfeld all also gaining places. Webber was down to eleventh, while Villeneuve was two places further back after being baulked.
Starting from the pits after crashing out of qualifying on Saturday, Jos Verstappen took full advantage to fuel his Minardi up for a longer first stint, and was joined by team-mate Justin Wilson and Jordan's Ralph Firman. With the Dutchman and Firman opting for the move before the rolling lap, Wilson appeared to be set for another 'last slot' start despite qualifying a career best 18th, but then ducked into the pits for his own top-up as the grid formed in front of the lights. Antonio Pizzonia, meanwhile, compounded Jaguar's problems by stalling on the grid and having to be pushed into the pit-lane, from where he later restarted.
At the front, the two Schumachers could not be separated, a situation that became even more tense when the traditional Michelin tyre drop-off kicked in after a few laps. Right on his brother's tail, Michael sought a way through approaching the start and finish of each lap, but was rebuffed in firm fashion as the Williams driver held on to his slim advantage.
The French rubber soon proved its worth, however, with Montoya trading fastest laps with the world champion, and both Alonso and the leader joining in, before the first round of pit-stops got under way with Panis' early call on lap eleven.
Williams' hopes of victory appeared to be dented when Schumacher stopped just five laps later, suggesting that the German had had to run light to compete with his brother and Ferrari in qualifying. The first of the front runners to stop for fuel and tyres, Schumacher was stationary for just 6.4secs - suggesting a short second stint - but compounded his situation with a slow restart when it appeared that he couldn't select first gear.
The situation changed again just one tour later, however, when Montoya was joined in pit-lane by Barrichello, confirming that the early leaders were running comparable fuel loads after all. With Ralf's problem dropping him to sixth on the road when he rejoined, an opportunity presented itself for Ferrari to increase its presence at the front of the field, but the Scuderia opted to add more fuel to the Brazilian's car, leaving him and Montoya to slot in behind the German as the order re-established itself.
The new leader stopped on the next lap - number 18 - with an identical refuelling time dropping him to third behind the two McLarens when he rejoined. The 'silver arrows' had only started sixth and twelfth, but were now clearly running heavier than their rivals and heading for a comparatively rare two-stop strategy as they gained ground. Raikkonen assumed the advantage on Schumacher's stop, with Coulthard running several seconds behind him.