Rubens Barrichello took an emotional first win of the year in front of Ferrari's fanatical tifosi, heading home team-mate Michael Schumacher in the eighth 1-2 result of the Scuderia's season.

The race was anything but easy for Ferrari, however, as both drivers were left down the order after morning rain left the track damp but drying when the lights went out.

The conditions had the teams scratching their heads right up to the five-minutes-to-go deadline for tyre choice and, while most opted to fit their usual dry-weather rubber, others - most notably poleman Barrichello, David Coulthard and Felipe Massa - chose to remain on intermediates. The Scot realised his 'error' as soon as the field set off on its warm-up lap, ducking into the pits at the end of the 3.6mile tour to rethink his strategy. Barrichello and Massa, meanwhile, took to their places on the grid.

The Brazilian knew that, with conditions improving all the time, he would have to make use of his lighter fuel load to sprint away over the opening few laps, and made a good start to head the field down to the Rettifilio chicane for the first time. The getaway needed to be spot-on, for Fernando Alonso made his usual flier from row two, and quickly jumped past both Michael Schumacher and Juan Montoya.

Incredibly, there was no contact at the chicane, although a couple of cars, including Schumacher's took to the concrete beyond the kerbs. The German, having passed Montoya courtesy of his short-cut, slowed to allow the Colombian back through, but also found himself being passed by Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren. There was worse to come for the world champion, however, for, as the field funnelled into the Roggia chicane, he received the lightest of taps but, being on the damp side of the road, spun round. Antonio Pizzonia and Olivier Panis were also delayed in the incident, the Frenchman terminally, but Schumacher resumed in 15th place.

While Barrichello attempted to make his escape, those behind jostled to be in position to assume the lead when the Ferrari eventually peeled off. Jenson Button was the man on the move, passing Raikkonen at the Lesmos on lap two, before repeating the trick on Montoya a lap later. This left the Briton, who had started sixth, pursuing Alonso, but it was the Spaniard who claimed the lead - and before Barrichello pitted, as the conditions switched suddenly to favouring those on dry-weather tyres. Renault passed Ferrari at the Ascari curves immediately before Barrichello was due to pit.

Massa joined his fellow Brazilian in opting for a tyre change, but wasted the move almost immediately by running into the side of Giorgio Pantano two laps on, damaging the nose of the Sauber and requiring a second stop.

Schumacher, by this stage, was already making his recovery, having passed Coulthard - who started from the pit-lane - and Giancarlo Fisichella to break into the top ten, but still lay behind his team-mate after the Ferrari crew turned Barrichello around in double quick time with just a splash of fuel.

Alonso's term in the lead lasted just five laps before the Spaniard made his own stop, handing the lead to Button, who now had a Michelin train comprising Montoya, Raikkonen and Sato in close company. Christian Klien and Mark Webber had made good use of the early confusion to hold sixth and seventh for Jaguar, with Barrichello and Schumacher occupying the final top ten spots.

Barrichello's heavier fuel load made him an easy picking for the world champion, who blew past the Brazilian heading down the start-finish straight on lap eleven, but not so for Pizzonia, whose own comeback stumbled slightly while attempting to follow suit a lap later, the Williams driver slithering across the first chicane.

BAR's belief that it had opted for a more conservative strategy in qualifying was borne out when Button and Sato were among the last of the frontrunners to stop for fuel and tyres. Montoya and Raikkonen headed pitwards on lap 13 but, for the McLaren man, the move proved to be his final one, the team having called him in to prevent his troubled Mercedes engine from further damage.

Button finally pitted on lap 14, moments after Pizzonia finally made a move stick on Barrichello, and, such was the Briton's pace, that the BAR resumed in the lead. Schumacher, however, had more fuel still on board, and pitted a lap later, having already deposed Alonso from second. The move showed just how quickly the race was turning towards the 'home' team, with the German able to lap quicker than those ahead of him as his Bridgestones found the conditions increasingly to their liking. The world champion emerged in eighth spot, immediately behind Webber, and also once again trailing team-mate Barrichello.

Button's decision to fit a little extra wing to his car in qualifying was now counting against him, as the BAR proved unable to run away from the chasing cars. Alonso, Montoya and Barrichello all inched closer to the Briton during the mid-part of the race, with Sato, Coulthard - who had been switched to a one-stop strategy during his pre-race pit-stop - and Schumacher not far behind.

Button managed to hold on to the lead until his second pit-stop on lap 34, and benefited from Alonso being bottled up behind Pizzonia after rejoining from his to rejoin behind Schumacher's Ferrari, but was also behind Barrichello, who had made another lightning stop as Ferrari pressed on with the Brazilian's tyre-induced three-stopper, and quickly turned in the first of a series of new lap records.

Schumacher pitted two laps later than Button, rejoining in P5 but making short work of Sato on his out-lap. The Japanese driver had only just passed Montoya, leaving Schumacher with one less adversary to pass in his pursuit of victory, and the world champion's own record pace soon had him looming large in the mirrors of Alonso and Button.

Alonso made life easier for Schumacher by spinning unaided at the exit of the Roggia chicane, and was then clearly incensed as the local marshals refused to push-start him, despite the Renault clearly being in a dangerous position with a wheel still on the track. Button also had little answer to the world champion, who was homing in at more than a second a lap, and, as the German pounced on lap 43, it became clear that the race was now between the two Ferraris.

To add extra tension to the moment, Barrichello was receiving his final pit-stop at the time Schumacher pulled his move on the BAR, and the battle distilled into a race with pone car on either side of the pit-wall. Barrichello emerged in front, just, but it remained to be seen whether Ferrari would ask him to concede, hold station or be prepared to race his team-mate.

Joining Alonso - as well as Raikkonen and Panis - in retirement by this stage were two of the other Italians in the race. Gianmaria Bruni was the first to go, his Minardi engulfed in a fuel fire during his second pit-stop. Although the team reacted quickly to put the blaze out, Bruni required medical attention after inhaling extinguisher powder. Giorgio Pantano added his name to the retirement list with a heavy off of the Parabolica shortly after his own second stop but, like his countryman, was largely unhurt in the incident.

Chasing the lead battles, Sato headed Montoya, Coulthard - who made his sole mid-race stop on lap 26 - Pizzonia and Giancarlo Fisichella, while Webber was left to fend off a lacklustre Jarno Trulli whilst hoping that another of the leading octet would suffer problems. After a strong start to the race, the second Jaguar of Christian Klien had been removed from the points equation by a drive-thru for excessive pit speed, and now trailed both Ricardo Zonta and Massa.

Sato's race became increasingly lonely over the closing laps, the Japanese driver safe in fourth, but unable to catch team-mate Button who, in turn, quickly dropped some ten seconds behind the Ferraris. Montoya, too, appeared comfortable in fifth, but mainly because the chasing Coulthard and Pizzonia were involved in a heated battle. The scrap came to a head when the Brazilian tried an ambitious move into the Rettifilio, and clouted the McLaren around its right rear. Despite the contact, and subsequent rough ride across the kerbs, Coulthard continued, and held his assailant at bay until the flag, where just three-tenths separated them.

Up front, the gap was never allowed to get that close, with Ferrari quickly halting any idea of a battle between Barrichello and Schumacher by ordering both drivers to back off to ensure the 1-2. As a result, the Brazilian was able to take his second Monza win in three years - and was delighted to do so after a tough season in Schumacher's shadow.

The German, who had looked dismayed at taking his seventh title behind Raikkonen at Spa, also looked genuinely happy for his understudy as they led the tifosi chorus from on top of Monza's unique podium.