Michael Schumacher led home a Ferrari one-two in Monaco, as problems for both McLarens limited the Woking team to a bit part and two points.

The race was effectively decided before the start, as both McLaren struck problems on the dummy grid. Mika Hakkinen, already stranded on the line twice this year, had experienced trouble with his launch control in the morning warm-up, but the team decided to proceed with it into the race - to its cost.

While Hakkinen was eventually able to get going and retake his third position on the grid, team-mate - and pole sitter - David Coulthard was left thumping the steering wheel in frustration as his MP4-16 failed even to lurch before stopping. The Scot later related that the engine was dead on the grid but, whatever the problem, it scuppered his hopes of back-to-back Monaco wins.

It also left Schumacher with a relatively easy run to Ste Devote where, remarkably, the entire field got round unscathed. The next potential flashpoint - the Grand Hotel hairpin - also passed without incident, before Jos Verstappen and Nick Heidfeld touched entering the first part of Portier, to the Sauber's detriment.

With no red flag to help him regain his front row place, Coulthard was left to struggle at the back of the grid, trying to find a way past the assorted Minardis, Prosts and Arrows on the narrowest track in the schedule. It was to be a frustrating afternoon.

Back at the front, Schumacher was gradually easing away from the rest of the pack, with Hakkinen, running a heavy fuel load, unable to keep pace with the fleet Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello had emulated his team leader's getaway to lie third entering lap two, with the two Williams line astern in fourth and fifth.

The second of the blue-and-white cars had come closest to causing an incident at Ste Devote, as Juan Montoya made another rocket start to pass Eddie Irvine and try his luck up the inside of Ralf Schumacher. Sensibly, he got off the power in time to prevent a pile-up, but was soon back on it as he set the first fastest lap of the race on lap two.

Sadly, the need for speed got the better of the Colombian next time around, as he understeered into the first part of the Swimming Pool complex, bounced off the kerb and slammed into the outside barriers. As with Heidfeld's accident, however, the efficient marshals had cleared the wreckage by the time the leaders re-appeared, allowing Schumacher to continue on his majestic way.

With Montoya out, the German promptly began setting fastest lap times, opening out the gap over Hakkinen, as Barrichello closed in to give the Finn problems. Whether Hakkinen succumbed to the pressure or not may never be revealed but, exiting the tunnel on lap 13, he pulled to one side and allowed Barrichello through into second. A pit-stop yielded much testing of the rear suspension, and Hakkinen rejoined, but was soon back in - and out of the race - complaining that the car was pulling to one side under power.

The Finn's demise left the two Ferraris well out in front, and this is where they remained for the rest of the 78-lap race. Only the single round of pit-stops allowed the lead to change hands, with Barrichello assuming control for the period between Schumacher calling in for fuel and tyres and the Brazilian making his own stop.

This left the action to take place further down the field. And it could not get much further down than the battle involving Coulthard who, at the point of his team-mate's retirement, was still puzzling out the path past the two Arrows. Initially chasing both cars, the Scot's task was eased slightly when Verstappen - showing no ill effects from his brush with Heidfeld - got past Enrique Bernoldi and sprinted off into the distance. The Brazilian, however, was to prove something of a thorn in Coulthard's side.

Lap after lap, the pair remained nose-to-tail, Bernoldi driving defensively in an attempt not to lose position, but ensuring that both men would register the slowest lap times of all in the process. The Arrows' Asiatech engine showed commendable power in keeping Coulthard at bay through the faster parts of the circuit, but the Scot could hardly have passed had he wanted to.

The two-man traffic jam had the eventual consequence of allowing the leaders to close right up, having already lapped the tail-ending Tarso Marques. Instead of trying to tag along with the likes of Schumacher and Barrichello as they came past, however, Coulthard allowed each successive leader through with the utmost courtesy - then found Bernoldi slamming the door in his face after he too had pulled aside. Only when the Brazilian, driving the car with the smallest fuel tank in the field, made his stop, did Coulthard get a break - promptly setting new lap records as he attempted to undo the damage that had been done since the start.

By the time his path was cleared, on lap 44, Coulthard already had a few less opponents to cope with. Following Heidfeld and Montoya into retirement, Olivier Panis copied Hakkinen's two-stop routine before climbing out, while the Finn was followed to the sidelines by Pedro de la Rosa, Luciano Burti and Jarno Trulli, the latter parking his blazing Jordan at Rascasse.

With neither McLaren running at the front, this allowed a few unexpected faces to feature among the potential point scorers in the first part of the race.

Eddie Irvine rose to fourth following the exit of both Montoya and Hakkinen, but had already shown his promise by putting the Jaguar sixth on the grid during Saturday's qualifying. The Irishman was being chased - at a distance - by Jacques Villeneuve's BAR which, in turn, had Giancarlo Fisichella behind him.

The little Italian was performing miracles in the usually tardy Benetton, climbing from tenth on the grid to hold sixth from the time of Trulli's retirement. Sky blue joy was only to last for a further 13 laps, however, as, having survived one clash with the Ste Devote barriers, Fisichella found his Benetton could not repeat the feat, having possibly been distracted by the rejoining Verstappen, and was forced out with deranged front suspension.

This promoted another unlikely figure into the points, with Jean Alesi taking the Prost AP04 higher than it had ever been in a grand prix. With the lapped Coulthard making inroads through the rest of the field, and the casualty rate continuing to rise, the Frenchman was looking good for a point, at least, provided his car kept running.

He was able to hold on to sixth position through his own pit-stop, the chasing Heinz-Harald Frentzen having come to a sad end as he exited the tunnel on lap 51. The German later complained that the car had done something it hadn't in the previous 50 laps, causing it to understeer away from the darkened apex, but the net result was one sorry-looking Jordan nestled in the barriers close to the Nouvelle Chicane.

Alesi's position was also improved when Ralf Schumacher slowed suddenly exiting the tunnel on lap 59. Although the German made it back to the pits, he was passed by both Irvine and Villeneuve by that time and, despite the Williams crew going through its paces, there was no chance of carrying on.

By this time, both Ferraris had made their routine pit calls, Barrichello taking over at the front while the red-clad mechanics turned Schumacher around in seven seconds, and Michael retaking the lead as the Brazilian received an 8.1secs service. It seemed that nothing could go wrong for the Scuderia this time.

The succession of retirements towards the front and in the midfield eventually allowed Coulthard - who had appeared disinterested during his vigil of Bernoldi's rear wing - to suddenly appear in the points. The Scot was flying by now, having rid himself of the obstacle in his path and, with the McLaren's renowned fuel capability, kept running while those around him stopped for a refill.

Only with ten laps remaining did the Scot make his stop, having already unlapped himself from Villeneuve and Irvine. A short call - just 6.6secs - allowed Coulthard to get out in front of the seventh-placed Jenson Button, and he immediately set about lowering Schumacher's recently-established lap record. Sixth still appeared the best he could hope for, however, until Alesi made a surprise re-appearance on pit road to take on new tyres for the final eight laps.

This was enough to drop the Frenchman one place, although it was close as he came out of the pits to see Coulthard speeding past in front of him. New tyres or not, Alesi was never going to catch the McLaren, and had to sit tight in sixth to ensure the Prost team's first point in over 20 races.

With the front two well clear of the field, and fifth and sixth still lapped, the focus of the final few laps fell on the battle for the final podium place, between Irvine and Villeneuve. Despite his apparent dislike of Monaco - and Irvine's apparent love of it - the Canadian was gradually reeling the Jaguar in, shaving a tenth or two off the gap with every lap. It was not enough, however, as Irvine held on to give Bobby Rahal, Niki Lauda, Jaguar and Ford a welcome morale boost - just as he had in 2000.

At the front the gap was even closer, but only because Schumacher backed off sufficiently to provide Ferrari with a finish photograph ready for its Christmas cards.

Just 0.431secs separated the two scarlet cars as the chequer fell, but the real result was plain to see. On a day when its major rival could have gained more from a gamble at the nearby Casino than it did on running launch control, Michael Schumacher was simply streets ahead.

Race Results:

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 78 laps 1hr 47mins 22.561secs 146.882kph
2. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +00.431secs
3. Eddie Irvine Britain Jaguar-Cosworth +30.698secs
4. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BAR-Honda +32.454secs
5. David Coulthard Britain McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
6. Jean Alesi France Prost-Acer +1 lap
7. Jenson Button Britain Benetton-Renault +1 lap
8. Jos Verstappen Holland Arrows-Asiatech +1 lap
9. Enrique Bernoldi Brazil Arrows-Asiatech +2 laps
10. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Sauber-Petronas +5 laps

Rtd Ralf Schumacher Germany Williams-BMW 57 laps completed
Rtd Tarso Marques Brazil Minardi-European 56 laps completed
Rtd Fernando Alonso Spain Minardi-European 54 laps completed
Rtd Heinz-Harald Frentzen Germany Jordan-Honda 49 laps completed
Rtd Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Benetton-Renault 33 laps completed
Rtd Jarno Trulli Italy Jordan-Honda 30 laps completed
Rtd Luciano Burti Brazil Prost-Acer 24 laps completed
Rtd Pedro de la Rosa Spain Jaguar-Cosworth 18 laps completed
Rtd Mika Hakkinen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 14 lap completed
Rtd Olivier Panis France BAR-Honda 13 laps completed
Rtd Juan Montoya Colombia Williams-BMW 2 laps completed
Rtd Nick Heidfeld Germany Sauber-Petronas 0 laps completed

Fastest lap: David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1min 19.424secs



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