Juan Pablo Montoya took a magnificent victory at the Monaco Grand Prix with a focused, precise and extremely fast drive. The Colombian earned Williams' first win for twenty years in the Principality by jumping the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen at the...
Juan Pablo Montoya took a magnificent victory at the Monaco Grand Prix with a focused, precise and extremely fast drive. The Colombian earned Williams' first win for twenty years in the Principality by jumping the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen at the start and then beating teammate and pole-sitter Ralf Schumacher in the pit stops. Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher were second and third respectively.
The sixty-first Monaco GP started in respectable style, no first corner incidents despite a very dirty track. The supporting Porsche race earlier had spread oil and water all over the track, which the marshals had rather enthusiastically thrown a vast amount of cement dust over.
Ralf was very slow off the line in the formation lap and Raikkonen shot away before realising his pole man was behind him. The Finn shuffled back into position and the race start was clean. Montoya cleared Raikkonen by the first corner and the Williams pair was immediately on the pace.
Unfortunately their charge was reigned in by Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen taking too much kerb at the swimming pool on lap one and squashing his right front wing into the wall. Remarkably, it was the only meeting between car and barriers the whole race.
"I went a little bit too hard over the kerb," said a remarkably sanguine Frentzen. "Unfortunately I hit the wall." A concise explanation.
The safety car appeared for a couple of laps -- other gainers at the start were Renault's Fernando Alonso, two places up to sixth, and BAR's Jacques Villeneuve and Sauber's Nick Heidfeld up a couple of positions. Toyota's Olivier Panis was the biggest loser, right back down to the back of the field.
At the restart the Williams' ploughed away, Ralf in the lead lapping two seconds faster than Schumacher Senior, who did not improve his fifth place at the start. The Jaguars were the next casualties, first Antonio Pizzonia with an electrical problem, then Mark Webber with engine gremlins.
"It was a small engine problem," said Webber, who dived into the pits twice in rapid succession. "We tried to fix it but there was no way I could drive with it."
Michael Schumacher was behind the Renault of Jarno Trulli but not exactly pressuring the Italian. Ralf, Montoya and Raikkonen were trading fastest laps at the front and Ralf was the first to make a pit stop. He rejoined in eighth and, meanwhile, new leader Montoya put in a blistering 1:15.166 --faster than the pole qualifying lap.
He then ducked in for his stop and rejoined ahead of Ralf in seventh while Raikkonen inherited the lead. The Finn took his turn in the pits and also rejoined ahead of Ralf, who appeared to be struggling after his pit.
Jarno Trulli had a very fast stop to beat David Coulthard to seventh and Renault teammate Alonso also had a good effort. Michael put in a blinding 1:14.707 prior to his stop then rejoined third. The race order after the first round of pits was Montoya, Raikkonen, Michael, Ralf, Trulli, Coulthard, Alonso and Barrichello.
Both Minardis, which were having a long first run, retired within minutes of each other: "Myself and Jos (Verstappen) had the same problem within a lap," explained Justin Wilson. "Some kind of fuel pick-up problem which automatically stops the engine."
It turned into a two-horse race between Montoya and Raikkonen for the remainder of the distance. Raikkonen set the fastest ever lap of Monaco with a 1:14.545 but just couldn't find a way past the Colombian. Michael was nineteen seconds adrift in third.
Ralf very nearly became a victim of the barriers, going head-first but managing to brake and escape by a very narrow margin. Coulthard tried to get the jump on Trulli in the second round of pit stops -- they pitted together, the McLaren having the quicker stop but Trulli just managed to hurl his Renault out in front. Villeneuve retired in flames with an engine failure.
Best pit stop of the day was Alonso's second; gaining one place in a stop is no mean feat but the Spaniard and his crew managed to jump both Trulli and Coulthard with a combination of a couple of very fast prior laps and extremely quick mechanics.
After the second round of stops Montoya and Raikkonen were a league ahead, the Williams managing to stay just ahead of the McLaren all the way to the line. The pair were in a race of their own and it was a very fine display of control and speed. It was only Montoya's second win, the first being at Monza in 2001. Williams needed this victory very badly and Juan Pablo didn't let them down.
As a racing spectacle Monaco is a bit lacking; the peculiarities of the street circuit really don't allow anything more than a procession. However, it was still a good race. Ferrari was as lacklustre as it was in qualifying -- Michael's third was deserved but devoid of his usual flair.
After the first pit stops Ralf never lived up to his qualifying promise, which was a shame but Montoya proved the worth of Williams. Alonso's fifth was credit-worthy after his generally erratic run up and while Trulli and Coulthard scrapped, the McLaren was never going to get past. Rubens Barrichello had a solitary and forgettable time to come home eighth.
Raikkonen held onto his lead in the Driver's Championship and McLaren jumps back ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors'. Ferrari was perhaps a little too full of itself after three consecutive victories -- at Monaco the Scuderia simply wasn't up to it. Final top eight classification: Montoya, Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Alonso, Trulli, Coulthard, Barrichello.