Juan Montoya followed Williams-BMW team-mate Ralf Schumacher's timely Monaco pole position with an assured victory to end, not only his own personal win drought, but break the jinx of a team that had not won in the Principality for two decades.
The Colombian used a combination of scintillating mid-race speed and the good work of his pit crew to come out on top of a race that was high on tension if not on-track action. Running second to his team-mate in the early going, Montoya then used the clear track presented by Schumacher's first pit-stop to good effect, putting in several near-qualifying style laps to open out enough of an advantage that he was able to assume the lead before half-distance.
The race had got off to a respectable start, with no-one making contact as the field filed through the remodelled Ste Devote. With advice - rather than direct warnings - not to cut the corner where the old roundabout used to stand, all 19 competing cars - following Jenson Button's injury-related withdrawal - made it around turn one cleanly, with Schumacher Jr already building a considerable lead over Montoya - who had squeezed past Kimi Raikkonen
- by the time they reached the Swimming Pool section.
It was here that the field was reduced to 18, as Heinz-Harald Frentzen misjudged his speed through the second section, launching his Sauber off the kerb and into the barrier on the opposite side of the road. Remarkably, no-one else became involved in the incident, which produced sufficient debris that the safety car needed to be deployed for several laps while the wreck was craned away.
The other first lap 'losers' included David Coulthard
and Rubens Barrichello, who both dropped behind the fast-starting Fernando Alonso, and Michael Schumacher, who could not muster enough speed off the line to vault past the other Renault
of Jarno Trulli
- results that affected all three men's afternoon long-term.
When the safety car cleared after four laps, the two blue-and-white Williams-BMWs sprinted away again, with Schumacher initially opening up a two-second advantage over his team-mate before being reeled in again. Within two laps of the restart, Schumacher's elder brother was some eight seconds adrift, underlining the superiority of the Michelin runners while the weather was at its warmest.
Mark Webber led the chase of the four leading teams - which occupied all eight point-scoring places - but was destined not to fulfil the potential many believed he possessed to gain a good result in Monaco. Stopping earlier than most expected, Webber later revealed that an engine problem was hobbling the Jaguar and, with a second stop following soon afterwards, his afternoon was done as early as lap 16. On a bad day for the squad, the Australian joined team-mate Antonio Pizzonia on the sidelines, after the Brazilian had been forced to retire with an electrical problem just four laps earlier.
The big question going into the race surrounded the usual subject of fuel loads and who was carrying what. Despite being restricted to fifth and seventh on the grid, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello
were satisfied that they were carrying more fuel than the cars ahead of them - and so it proved, with the world champion stretching his first stint out well beyond anyone else.
The leader pitted as early as lap 21, having seen his advantage over Montoya reduced to a fraction of a second in the two laps immediately prior to calling in for fuel and tyres. To add to Schumacher Jr's woes, he locked a wheel under breaking for the Grand Hotel hairpin and then crawled down pit-lane, effectively handing the race to his Colombian colleague.