Fernando Alonso delivered McLaren's 150th grand prix triumph around the streets of Monaco today, as the Silver Arrows utterly destroyed the opposition to lay down an ominous marker for the remainder of the campaign.

After leaving their rivals trailing in their wake for the majority of the weekend, there seemed little doubt this race would turn into a McLaren-Mercedes demonstration as soon as the lights went out, and so it was to prove. But if it was a demonstration, dull it most certainly was not.

As the rain that had threatened for much of Saturday held off on race day, one more variable was removed from the equation, and with McLaren having locked out the front row in qualifying and Kimi Raikkonen's costly smash in Q2, Ferrari knew it was going to have its work cut out if it was to prevent the silver steamroller from walking away with proceedings in the race.

As the lights went out, though, Lewis Hamilton was taking no chances, immediately cutting across to prevent any attack from Felipe Massa behind, and allowing team-mate Alonso to safely maintain his pole position advantage as the two McLarens negotiated Ste D?vote for the first time line-astern. Behind them Massa held third place, with Giancarlo Fisichella also retaining his grid spot in fourth. Nick Heidfeld in the BMW-Sauber made up for a disappointing qualifying performance to nip past Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber into fifth, with Honda's Rubens Barrichello also displacing the Australian to run eighth.

By the end of the opening lap alone, it was already looking like turning into very much a McLaren-Mercedes benefit, as Massa dropped away in third and Fisichella held a similar advantage over Heidfeld and Rosberg behind. Indeed, such was the McLarens' searing pace right from the word go, Heidfeld in sixth place was a full five seconds adrift after just one lap.

The first major drama of the race came as early as lap two, when Tonio Liuzzi - one of the stars of qualifying in placing his Scuderia Toro Rosso machine 12th on the grid - undid all his good work of the weekend by planting his STR-2 in the barriers at Massenet while under pressure from fast-starting team-mate Scott Speed, already up four spots from his 18th grid position.

As the race began to settle down a little, Alonso held a steady one second gap over Hamilton, with Massa a further three seconds in arrears. Further back, Heidfeld was continuing to stave off the advances of a racy-looking Rosberg, while queues were beginning to form up behind both Hondas, as Webber and Kubica started putting the pressure on Barrichello and Jenson Button found his mirrors full of Raikkonen's Ferrari. Equally intriguingly, a few spots further back was to be found David Coulthard holding up Heikki Kovalainen - not for the first time this weekend - as the two subjects of Saturday's controversial qualifying incident looked set to turn it into seconds out, round two.

As the laps slowly ticked away, Alonso began to stamp his authority on proceedings by eking out a gap over his chasing team-mate, with Massa holding a watching brief back in third. Meanwhile, we still had the unfamiliar sight of a Honda leading a Ferrari in 2007 as Raikkonen found himself unable to make any impression on the earth-themed car ahead of him around the most difficult circuit on which to overtake of them all.

Ten laps in, and the gap between the leading two stood at four seconds. Whatever McLaren team principal Ron Dennis may have claimed afterwards about his two drivers 'cruising' from there on in, the on-track evidence suggested rather differently, as no quarter was asked and none was given. Indeed, the more Alonso extended his lead, the more wayward Hamilton's MP4-22 seemed to get as he doggedly gave chase, and there was many a heart-in-the-mouth moment as Lewis slid the car around the corners mere millimetres away from kissing the barriers, something that at Monaco can invariably spell instant disaster.

Further back, it was a similar story for an increasingly frustrated and lurid-looking Raikkonen, as Button placed his Honda in all the right places to prevent the Finn from getting past. Honda's Japanese rival Toyota, meanwhile - which recently became the world's number one car manufacturer - was having a particularly torrid afternoon, with both Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher having struggled to get away from the grid and left back battling with the Super Aguris and Spykers over the final positions.

Webber would prove to be the race's second casualty, pulling into the pits on lap 18 with a misfire and gearbox woes. It was the Red Bull Racing star's third straight failure to finish in 2007, and once again when he had been in a points-paying position.

There was a brief ray of encouragement for Hamilton when Alonso got badly held up fighting his way through traffic shortly before the first round of pit-stops, as the Spaniard lost 3.5 seconds to his team-mate in one fell swoop. Massa, for his part, had fallen away by some eight seconds, unable to keep pace with the two leaders who continued to go at it hammer-and-tongs.

Fisichella - running a solitary fourth, not close enough to challenge Massa ahead but equally under no threat from Heidfeld and Rosberg behind - was the first to blink, diving into the pitlane at the end of lap 23 for the first of his two scheduled stops. He would rejoin just behind Heidfeld, while Rosberg - who stopped shortly afterwards - was not so fortunate, slipping out of the top ten and down to 12th position, from where he would never really recover.

Alonso made his stop at the end of lap 26, with Massa doing likewise and switching to Bridgestone's soft tyres for his middle run. With most drivers choosing to save the softer compound until the shortest final stint, Ferrari's decision would ultimately prove fatal to any slight hopes the Brazilian may have harboured of challenging for the win, as he slipped further and further away throughout the middle stages of the race.

Raikkonen by this point had finally broken into the top ten, but merely by virtue of drivers ahead of him having made their stops, while back at the front Hamilton was pushing for all he was worth, well aware that by running longer he had a golden opportunity to steal the lead. The problem for Lewis was, although he would set the fastest lap leading up to his stop, Alonso on a full fuel load was only a tenth of a second slower.

The gap between the leading McLarens following the stops remained therefore pretty much as it had been, to the tune of some four seconds - close, but not close enough if Lewis was to truly challenge for the victory and maintain his undefeated record around the Principality's narrow, tortuous streets. On the soft tyres, Massa' threat had now evaporated as he slipped back to a full 30 seconds adrift and reduced the battle at the front to a two horse race, while Raikkonen at least had a different rear wing to stare at when Heidfeld rejoined from his stop in-between Button and the struggling Ferrari, though the disgruntled Finn was still lapping a cavernous four seconds a lap slower than the front-runners.

As the gap at the front ebbed and flowed once more, Barrichello's late pit-stop freed up Kubica, who immediately showed his true colours and proved just how much he had been compromised by the Honda getting in front of him at the start by lapping two to three tenths of a second quicker than anyone else on the track, McLarens included.

When Button pitted at the end of lap 41, Raikkonen was finally promoted up into the points, but it would only be a fleeting respite as he too came in seven laps later, rejoining just in time to see team-mate Massa flash by...a full lap ahead.

The relentless pace at the head of the field saw Alonso now holding a 7.5 second advantage over Hamilton, but neither was clearly in any mood to back off, despite the ever-menacing guardrail that seemed to loom closer with every lap.

Kubica's late-stopping one-stop strategy, allied to the Pole's lighting turn of speed, paid off as he came back out of the pitlane marginally in front of team-mate Heidfeld, who had run ahead of him for the majority of the race. A similar strategy worked equally well for Alex Wurz, who having qualified six spots adrift of Williams team-mate Rosberg, leapfrogged him during the race to run solidly in the points at the track where nine years ago the Austrian had duelled ferociously with and got the better of none other than Michael Schumacher.

Alonso pitted for the second and final time on lap 51, switching onto the unloved soft tyres, with Hamilton - whose car was now literally dancing around the circuit as the young Brit edged dangerously close to the Armco - following suit just two laps later. With 25 laps left to run, and a five-second gap between the two leading protagonists, battle was on.

Sutil would become the race's third casualty when he swiped the barriers in a similar fashion to Liuzzi earlier on, while it would prove to be a particularly bad day for Spyker when team-mate Christijan Albers followed the German into retirement just a handful of laps from home.

Honda's hopes of getting at least one of their cars home in the points for the first time in 2007 came undone when they were both forced to pit again to change onto the soft tyres as per the 2007 regulations, dropping Barrichello and Button back to respectively tenth and eleventh places at the chequered flag, so near but yet agonisingly so far. Their misfortune, however, allowed the subdued Raikkonen up into the points, and with 14 laps to go the Finn began to close dramatically on Wurz ahead of him in seventh.

There was some late-race drama for Kubica too, as he began to drop three seconds a lap to team-mate Heidfeld behind him, prompting the BMW-Sauber mechanics to come out into the pit-lane in readiness for an unscheduled stop. Fortunately for the Pole, whatever problem it was seemed to clear itself up again and he was able to regain his speed and maintain his position.

There was a delay on Massa's second pit-stop, though he had enough in hand over the charging Fisichella to be able to comfortably preserve his third place, but all eyes were on the duel up front, as an inspired Hamilton inexorably reduced the gap to Alonso to nothing in a matter of minutes.

Although the McLarens reined in their pace over the closing laps and Hamilton backed off, even in coasting to the finish they were still a massive three seconds a lap faster than anyone else on the race track, and at the chequered flag they had put a lap on all but Massa's Ferrari. Another four or five laps and they would likely have lapped the Brazilian too.

In the end it was an utterly imperious display by the two Silver Arrows, as Alonso crossed the line four seconds clear of his team-mate to register his second successive Monaco triumph and 17th victory of his career, in the process reclaiming the lead of the Drivers' World Championship. Although Hamilton was naturally disappointed to have seen his Monaco record broken, he equally knows his time will come. With Massa taking third, McLaren and Ferrari maintained their 100 per cent lock-out of the podium positions so far in 2007, but that can be of little consolation to Maranello on a day when the scarlet machines were well and truly blown into the weeds.

Fisichella's superb run to fourth marked Renault's best result of the campaign to date, while Kubica and Heidfeld secured more solid points for BMW behind in fifth and sixth. Wurz held on for a strong seventh, fending off Raikkonen to the close, as the Finn proved unable to repeat predecessor Michael Schumacher's heroics of 2006 when the German had charged through the pack from 22nd on the grid to fifth at the chequered flag. Indeed, having now slipped to 15 points adrift of the championship lead, Raikkonen's title credentials are starting to look distinctly flaky.

Speed took an impressive ninth-place finish for STR, just outside the points after starting all the way down in 18th, with the Hondas of Barrichello and Button an understandably downbeat tenth and eleventh having run in the points for much of the race. Rosberg was an even more deflated twelfth after securing the second-highest grid spot of his Formula 1 career the previous day, with Kovalainen, Coulthard, Trulli, Schumacher, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson completing the finishers, all two laps down.

This, though, was very much Alonso's day. Leading up to the race, some had been beginning to ask questions about the reigning double world champion's temperament and mental capacity given his team-mate's stunning start to his maiden season in the top flight. Over the course of 78 laps, he answered them all with aplomb.