Kimi Raikkonen proved to be Mercedes' 'diamond geezer' in Monaco, celebrating the German marque's 200th grand prix with a convincing win on the streets of the principality.

Having secured pole position with a controlled lap in Sunday morning's second qualifying, the Finn was best placed to seize the advantage heading into Ste Devote for the first time, and so it proved, despite the best efforts of a fast-starting Fernando Alonso. The Renault driver had a quick look to the inside of Raikkonen's McLaren, as the leader locked both front wheels momentarily under braking, but Raikkonen was quick to cover the move and lead the field up the hill towards Casino Square.

It was an intact field in the Finn's wake too, the 18 starters all somehow avoiding the traditional first corner accident to fall into single file up Beau Rivage. They weren't all in the same order that they had assumed on the grid, however, for Mark Webber again made a poor getaway in the Williams, dropping from a potential third to fifth behind both Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli. The Australian also came under threat from team-mate Nick Heidfeld, but just kept the German at bay into turn one.

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Behind the two BMW-powered cars, the order remained largely the same, with David Coulthard having held off Michael Schumacher, and only Felipe Massa really making up ground, vaulting his Sauber into ninth at the expense of team-mate Jacques Villeneuve and Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. By the end of the first lap, however, both Juan Montoya and Ralf Schumacher - forced to start 16th and 18th after their altogether different woes from Saturday - had begun to make ground, the Colombian already with both Minardis and both Jordans in his mirrors, as well as Schumacher's Toyota.

Aware of Alonso's potential, Raikkonen was clearly in no mood to hang about, starting his pursuit of fastest laps on the second tour and continuing to ease out a gap over the Spaniard that had reached three seconds by lap nine. Alonso tried to respond with a quick lap of his own in the midst of Raikkonen's escape, but it was the Finn who set the pace as the top three began to pull out a cushion over the pack snarled up behind Trulli's Toyota.

Traffic, always a problem on the tight streets, came into play by lap 15, with Narain Karthikeyan already hobbled by a misbehaving Jordan and team-mate Tiago Monteiro unable to live with the two Minardis. Raikkonen, however, only lost the merest hint of a second passing the slower cars, any deficit quickly regained as those behind him followed suit.

The Finn's first real 'problem' came when Christijan Albers spun his Minardi at Mirabeau - even though the McLaren was on the far side of the circuit at the time. The incident, which all but blocked the track, eventually brought out the safety car as Michael Schumacher, unsighted behind David Coulthard, collected the Red Bull car as it jumped on the brakes. Although neither car joined Albers in facing the wrong way, Schumacher's Ferrari lost its front wing and, in the delay while the German negotiated his own debris, half the field joined the queue. Coulthard, meanwhile, didn't even get to see the safety car, his rear suspension damaged in the collision.

The safety car remained out for two laps, but allowed the field to close back in on the leading McLaren before letting it lose again on lap 28. Raikkonen, however, appeared typically unflustered by the sight of cars in his mirrors once more - perhaps because neither of the two directly behind him was now blue-and-yellow.

Taking advantage of the reduced pace, Renault called both its cars in for fuel, queuing Fisichella behind Alonso to ensure both were serviced with as little delay as possible. Williams did likewise with Webber and Heidfeld, while Sauber called for just Massa and Minardi for Patrick Friesacher. Schumacher, meanwhile, was fitted with a new rear wing and sent on his way, now down in 13th spot, directly behind his younger brother.

With the world champion and Albers' Minardi creating a buffer back to fourth on the road, but second overall, Trulli, Raikkonen decided it was again time to put the hammer down, this time opening out a five second advantage over the Italian. As the order shook itself out, Alonso found himself in third, but with Webber's Williams all over the back of the Renault, which was beginning to show the first signs of excess tyre wear. Heidfeld and Massa had managed to complete their pit-stops and rejoin ahead of some of those worst affected by the contretemps at Mirabeau, with Villeneuve the next of the unstopped runners. Fisichella, meanwhile, was silently cursing Renault's tactics, as he found himself ninth and stuck behind slower cars he had managed to clear at the start.

Minardi's promising weekend took another blow as the second of its rookie drivers, Friesacher, crashed coming out of the tunnel. Like many before him, including messrs Button, Sato and Wendlinger, the Austrian appeared to lose his car on the bumps at the top of the hill, fish-tailing against both barriers before spinning into the, thankfully empty, escape road. With most of the debris confined to off-line areas, there was no need for a second safety car, but Paul Stoddart's hopes of a Jordan-beating performance began to look less likely.

Raikkonen showed no sign of concern over any possible shards of carbon-fibre in the braking area, banging in successive fastest laps as he extended his advantage over Trulli to 17 seconds and prepared for his pit-stop, which finally came on lap 42. Such was the Finn's lead by this stage, however - especially since Trulli had stopped three laps earlier - that he was able to rejoin in front and continue his cruise towards the flag.

The real action was already brewing in the McLaren's wake, with Alonso still fighting both his tyres and the two Williams that dogged his every move, and the battle for sixth, with a similarly afflicted Fisichella desperately holding off the refuelled Trulli and a train consisting of Barrichello, Montoya and Liuzzi. Barrichello, one of the race's latest stoppers, then appeared to have scuppered his chances by stalling at his pit-stop and then exceeding the speed limit, necessitating a drive-thru penalty two tours later.

The Brazilian was soon able to take advantage of Fisichella's problems, however, rejoining the train along with both Saubers and the two Schumacher brothers. Michael took a hard look at Ralf heading into the chicane on lap 54, but the move came to nothing and the real action in the battle for what became fifth following Montoya's stop didn't occur until the world champion had also been in for another top up.

Catching quickly back up to the tail of the snake, Schumacher was well placed to take advantage of an optimistic move from Trulli on his Renault replacement at Loews. As the Toyota clattered across the inside kerb, Fisi allowed his countryman room, but then succumbed to the ravenous pack that had been waiting for a chance to pounce. Caught on the outside, the Italian had little option but to watch as Montoya followed Trulli through before Portier, with both Ferraris muscling past before the tunnel.

Missing from the feeding frenzy were the two Saubers, removed from points contention by a rash move from Villeneuve on his younger team-mate at Ste Devote on lap 62. Both cars were struggling with their tyres, but the Canadian launched a move down the inside of the first corner only to find he had little stopping power when it really mattered. While he skated into the barriers, Massa took to the escape road, eventually rejoining in eleventh.

With the lesser points seemingly sorted, attention switched back to the scrap for second, in which Alonso was having to defend ever more frantically to keep the Williams twins at bay. Largest in his mirrors now, however, was Heidfeld, the German having benefited from an early second stop while Webber remained glued to the Renault's gearbox. When the Australian made his stop next time around, Heidfeld had gained enough time to slip ahead, although both were quickly back on Alonso's tail.

With the Spaniard defending as he had from Schumacher Sr in San Marino, it looked like a determined move or two would be needed to shift him from a sixth straight podium finish. Heidfeld, often overlooked as the quiet man of the paddock, agreed, and dived down the inside heading into the chicane for the 71st time. Alonso, perhaps distracted by Trulli's ailing Toyota ahead, was caught on the hop, and could do little to prevent the Williams from moving up a place.

Webber now sensed a maiden podium, which seemed unlikely given his poor start, but knew that Alonso would be wise to a repeat move at the chicane. Feints elsewhere showed that there were few alternatives, however, and the Aussie duly went for it on the waterfront two laps later. Both cars appeared set to miss the obstacle altogether but, while Webber, despite being ahead, made an effort to at least look like going around the chicane, Alonso continued more or less straight across it. No penalty was forthcoming, meaning the Williams man had to do it again and, next time around, both were wider of the mark. This time Alonso appeared to have made the corner, only to cut back behind the Williams and take a short-cut. Webber, however, already had the power down and, despite robust defence from the Renault, eventually seized third.

Alonso quickly fell back into the clutches of the chasing train, with Montoya leading the assault on his gearbox. Just four laps remained, however, and the Spaniard resolved not to cede any more ground. The five cars - Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and the two Ferraris behind the Renault - circled as one until the final corner, when all fanned out to try and snatch the slightest opportunity to pass. As it was, the order remained static, even if just over a second split the five at the flag. Having overcome the struggling Trulli and Fisichella, meanwhile, Massa took ninth, and was left to wonder what might have been.

Raikkonen, though, was long gone, already half way to Mirabeau as he celebrated a first Monaco win. Alonso's plight meant that the Finn had carved another five points off his championship lead, but the McLaren man deserved it after a truly 24-carat performance.