Kimi Raikkonen did what he had to do to keep his championship hopes intact at Spa-Francorchamps, but victory for the McLaren man was tempered by the fact that team-mate Juan Montoya was again unable to hold on to second place.
The pair ran at the front of the field from the start, with polewinner Montoya getting the drop on the field as it headed towards the tricky La Source hairpin that opens the Spa lap. Raikkonen, meanwhile, was struggling to hold on to second, with Jarno Trulli pushing the nose of his Toyota up the inside of the McLaren into the right-hander. Raikkonen's wider line, however, paid dividends on exit, the Finn able to ease ahead again on the run to Eau Rouge, Trulli settling for third ahead of Fernando Alonso as the top four settled back into grid order.
Remarkably, given the damp conditions that greeted the grid, all 18 regular starters made it through the opening combination of corners unscathed, while the two Minardis joined the tail of the field from the pit-lane, having opted to keep their options open right to the end. There had been a slight reshuffle in the middle order, however, with Takuma Sato gaining three positions off the line, at the expense of BAR team-mate Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa.
The Japanese would then find himself in sixth at the end of the lap, capitalising on a dust-up between the two Schumacher brothers approaching the Bus Stop to vault Ralf's Toyota, which also fell behind Button before crossing the line. Ralf had succumbed to brother Michael's advance in the opening sector, dropping in behind the Ferrari after the pair had filled row three, and now had Massa and Webber in close attendance.
Further back, Giancarlo Fisichella had made slight progress, from 13th to twelfth, after suffering an engine change penalty before qualifying, but found himself sandwiched between the Red Bull cars of David Coulthard and Christian Klien on the opening lap, the Austrian having made Sato-like progress up the order. Klien's rise accounted for Rubens Barrichello, Antonio Pizzonia and Jacques Villeneuve, with the Canadian finding himself coming under pressure from Tiago Monteiro's Jordan.
Despite the McLarens easing away at the front, Fisichella was the man on the move, passing Coulthard and Webber in short order, before adding Massa to his tally on lap seven. Button's eighth place followed on lap ten, but that was as far as the Renault would get, Fisichella putting a front wheel on the wet kerb at Eau Rouge and being fired off into the barriers at Raidillon.
The impact was sizeable, the R25 swapping ends after contact with the wall, but Fisichella was able to climb out unaided. The look on his face showed the real pain he was feeling, however, a good result - and chance to help team-mate Alonso's title campaign - having gone begging.
The accident also prompted the stewards to call for the safety car, negating the break that Montoya and Raikkonen had been building, but also causing a degree of confusion in the ranks. The forecast for raceday had not been good and, indeed, the morning support races had already been badly affected by torrential rain. By start time, however, the track was merely very damp - enough for plumes of spray in parts - but not wet enough to consider full wets.
The recovering Ralf Schumacher started the pit-stop cycle, but the luckless German called in for fuel a lap before Fisi's accident and was thus unable to benefit from the safety car. However, courtesy of the length of the Spa lap and the fact that Raikkonen was obliged to drive tactically at the head of the queue, the Toyota emerged from the chaos in third place.