Kimi Raikkonen got his world championship challenge back on track with a win in an incident-packed Canadian Grand Prix that saw several leading runners forced to retire, and one more excluded after a pit-lane misdemeanour.

The Finn was only seventh on the grid after qualifying at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but that mattered little as those ahead of him - including both Renaults - self-destructed on a hot and humid day.

Renault appeared odds-on for victory in the opening stages, with both Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso vaulting past the front row pairing of Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher to lead by the first corner. Button had reported a gear selection problem on the warm-up lap, and appeared cautious at the getaway, while the BAR's slow formation pace did for Schumacher, as the Ferrari's Bridgestone tyres cooled below the ideal temperature for a slingshot start.

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Such was the world champion's laggardly reaction to the lights, Juan Montoya was able to muscle his way through between turns one and two, and Raikkonen not long afterwards. Schumacher eventually settled into sixth, with Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato and the fast-starting Felipe Massa keeping him honest.

Out front, the two blue-and-yellow R25s began to stretch away, with Fisichella and Alonso taking it in turns to set fastest laps, while Button also enjoyed a couple of seconds' advantage over the chasing McLarens, courtesy of their having to get around Schumacher. The order remained the same through the first ten laps, but the question of qualifying fuel loads was soon to be answered.

Already visiting the pits - and causing thousands of local hearts to sink - was Jacques Villeneuve, the Sauber driver asking for a new front wing, despite his original part not looking too damaged. Mark Webber delayed his attempt to move up the order by running too deep into the hairpin while trying to replicate Ralf Schumacher's early pass on David Coulthard, while Narain Karthikeyan continued his Montreal spin-fest with another rotation, this time at turn one, causing Jordan team-mate Tiago Monteiro to take avoiding action.

The first scheduled pit-stop came on lap twelve, and it was no surprise to see Schumacher Sr the man to set the klaxons blaring. Ferrari's gamble in running the world champion light to try and give him a good starting spot to overcome Bridgestone's qualifying woes dropped the German to eleventh, but with much of the race to unwind, still in with the chance of points.

Polewinner Button wasn't far behind Schumacher, stopping three laps later and rejoining in seventh, handing the battle for the race to Renault and McLaren, as many had expected to be the case from the start of the weekend. Fisichella continued to lead, despite Alonso appearing to have the quicker Renault, but refused to let his team-mate past as he sought to exorcise the bad luck that has plagued him since Melbourne.

The pair continued to run in tandem, Alonso closing in unless delayed by backmarkers - particularly Christian Klien after the Austrian exited the pits in front of the championship leader - until lap 24, when the Spaniard finally pitted for fuel. His edge in pace was not only down to a lighter car, however, as Fisichella pitted a lap later, but Alonso was unable to make the most of stopping first as he resumed in second once the window had unwound.

Fisichella managed to hold his lead through the pit-stops, but Alonso should, by rights, have dropped to third, as Montoya appeared to have the advantage as he exited from his stop. Instead, however, the Colombian's haste to remain in the fight got the better of him, the McLaren's rear stepping out of line as he applied the gas, and sending the car on a rough ride over the verge before Montoya could regain the track. The error wasn't enough to allow team-mate Raikkonen to take advantage, but set the tone for the rest of Montoya's afternoon....

Karthikeyan retired from the fray having whacked the wall and damaged the right rear of his Jordan before limping back to the pits on lap 26. Webber, Barrichello and Villeneuve were still to stop for fuel at that point, although the Canadian was already hampered by having made his early call for repairs. Webber finally stopped on lap 28, his Williams clearly having been heavy in qualifying to try and make up for his early spot in the running order, while Barrichello had been topped up in pit-lane after his qualifying disaster left him at the back of the field.

Renault continued to enjoy a distinct advantage over McLaren as the halfway point loomed, but Alonso only got his chance to pass Fisichella after the team had tersely told him to try and overtake, rather than complaining that he was faster than the Italian. When the move came, it appeared that Fisi had decided to let it happen, but the long-time leader was actually in trouble, as Montoya and Raikkonen also caught and passed him in short order. A hydraulics problem was diagnosed, and it was an understandably frustrated Fisichella that stalked to the back of the garage.

Twelve months ago, the first cracks began to show in Renault's defence of second place in the 2004 constructors' championship, as both Alonso and then team-mate Jarno Trulli were forced out of the running. Incredibly, within six laps of inheriting the lead, Alonso was also spotted slowing on the track, the rear of his R25 looking wayward as he tried to make it back to the pits. Under increasing pressure from the chasing McLarens, the Spaniard had lost his customary cool and repeated Karthikeyan's error of slapping the turn four concrete. Hoping that the resultant puncture could be rectified, Alonso was dismayed to find that the accompanying suspension breakage could not...

Renault's suicide pact meant that, with 40 of the 70 laps in the book, Montoya assumed control of the event, leading for the first time as a McLaren driver, but with the spectre of Raikkonen's championship challenge casting something of a shadow over the achievement. Would McLaren decide to engineer a change of position? Or would the team recognise JPM's own proximity in points to the Finn and allow him to run unhindered to the flag?

The answer came seven laps further on, as the chasing Button lost his BAR over the recently raised kerbs at the final chicane. The Briton had been coming under increased pressure from Schumacher's Ferrari, but decided not to opt for the escape road in an attempt to make up for his mistake on entry to the corner. The result was a wild ride into the so-called 'wall of champions', breaking the 007's right front suspension on contact.

As the BAR slid to a halt against the outside wall, so the safety car was scrambled to facilitate its removal. That created just the opportunity McLaren may have been looking for, and it was Raikkonen who joined the rush for pit-lane as the pace was slowed. Montoya, by contrast, was left out to trundle around behind the safety car for another lap, eventually coming in for his top-up when most of the field was already back in line.

Whether frustrated or over-enthusiastic, the Colombian sprinted out of pit-lane for the second time in the space of an hour, muscling his way in front of David Coulthard's Red Bull, despite the Scot appearing to have held track position. The move was expected to attract the attention of the stewards - as had McLaren's decision to release Raikkonen in front of DC as both exited the pits at the same time - but when notification of the investigation was confirmed, it was for an altogether different offence.

While Raikkonen's exit was not deemed worthy of further examination, Montoya was accused of having left the pit-lane while the red light was still illuminated. With the pace car passing the pits at that exact time, the McLaren man should have held back, rejoining at the back of the line. Instead, regardless of his shouldering of Coulthard, his race was done, the offence bringing punishment by black flag...

Montoya joined a growing list of former competitors on the sideline, with Patrick Friesacher having stopped his Minardi three laps after Alonso, and Nick Heidfeld parking his smoking Williams just one tour further on. The German had been warned about rising temperatures as he diced with Massa, but eventually the BMW V10 could take no more. Scratching his name from the list, meanwhile, was Takuma Sato, the Japanese driver having rejoined the race after 24 laps of work on his stricken BAR.

Sato seemed to have become the first casualty of the race when his gearbox went sick on 22, but the team took the decision to scavenge what they could from the spare car in an attempt to get the 007 back on track in time to boost its position in the running order for USGP qualifying. Sato eventually rejoined shortly before his team-mate hit the wall, but still required quick attrition to rise much higher up the order.

The mixture of chaos and controversy left Raikkonen out front, despite the presence of the about-to-be-lapped Ralf Schumacher at the head of the queue when it was finally released. The German was quickly disposed of, but Raikkonen would have the word 'Schumacher' firmly at the front of his mind for the rest of the day.

The world champion's mix of reliability and resilience had elevated him to second on the road - and the Ferrari, now with its tyres up to temperature, was closing slowly but surely on the leader. To add to the confusion, there were reports of rain in the air, a possible pre-cursor to thunderstorms to accompany the humidity, but these eventually amounted to nothing, leaving Raikkonen and Schumacher to go head-to-head to the finish.

Montoya's exclusion had lifted Trulli into an unexpected third place, but the Italian was not destined to take another podium finish as his Toyota suffered brake failure on the run to the final chicane. Fortunately, Trulli was able to direct his car at the escape lane built in to the obstacle, but it wasn't until the first corner that he was finally able to park up and climb out.

The Toyota's exit completed Barrichello's recovery, allowing the Brazilian to slot in to third despite having started from the pit-lane. The Ferrari driver was comfortably clear of the battle for fourth place between Massa and Webber, but equally not in a position to threaten the leaders, having already conceded around 40 seconds to them as he fought his way through the field.

Massa and Webber continued their fight right to the flag, the Australian missing out by 0.6secs despite a concerted look into the final chicane, Ralf Schumacher followed them across the line, but enough of a distance to ensure he was the first of the lapped runners home. Coulthard and Klien completed the scorers, thanking the Red Bull team's reliability rather than outright speed, while the recovering Villeneuve missed out by one place on adding to his tally.

Raikkonen and Schumacher Sr continued their dice to the line, too, but the world champion was never quite able to close the gap sufficiently to have a look at the leader. As they flashed across the line, just over a second split silver from red, Raikkonen celebrating as he redressed the points balance after his last-lap exit at the Nurburgring.