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Race review - Monaco 01 Jun 2003

Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 1 June 2003

Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher served up a fabulous Monaco Grand Prix here on Sunday afternoon, only 1.7s covering the three of them after 78 gruelling laps.

Montoya's victory was a much-needed triumph not only for Williams, but also for the Colombian driver, whose only previous victory had come at Monza in 2001, and who had thrown away a second in Australia earlier this season.

Ralf Schumacher led away from pole position in the other Williams, while Montoya forced his way by Raikkonen to grab second place as the Finn moved to block fast-starting Jarno Trulli. The Renault driver's getaway would play a crucial part in Michael Schumacher's race, for the world champion found himself trapped behind the blue and yellow car for the first 27 laps as his brother, Montoya and Raikkonen pulled away and then made their first refuelling stops.

Ralf Schumacher led the first 21 laps, his stop handing the lead to Montoya, who then stopped on lap 23. Raikkonen had two laps in front before his stop on lap 25. Schumacher did not stop until lap 31, but still fell behind Montoya and Raikkonen, and a heavy fuel load in his second stint did not allow him to make much headway.

Raikkonen went four laps longer than Montoya before their respective second stops - lap 53 against lap 49, and again Schumacher did a long stint, running until lap 59. That set up a great confrontation in the closing laps as Raikkonen hounded Montoya while Schumacher played catch-up. But overtaking is impossible at Monaco, and none of the three stars made any errors. By the flag Montoya had 0.6s in hand over Raikkonen, who was 1.1s ahead of Schumacher.

"I am so happy!" Montoya beamed. "Everybody at Williams really needed this win so much. I won at Monza, and it definitely was worth waiting to win here."

Behind the leading trio, Ralf Schumacher faded to fourth, while better strategy put Fernando Alonso ahead of the race-long dice between Trulli and David Coulthard, with Rubens Barrichello not quite able to challenge them.

In his first Monaco appearance Cristiano da Matta brought his Toyota home in ninth place, ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan and Nick Heidfeld's Sauber. Jordan's Ralph Firman and Toyota's Olivier Panis were the final finishers.

There were remarkably few incidents, given the tight nature of the Monaco street circuit. Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen was the only man to hit the wall, the German ending his race at the Swimming Pool section on the opening lap.

Both Jaguars went out early on with technical problems and the two Minardis also retired before half distance. BAR's Jacques Villeneuve was the only other retirement, after flames started to appear from his Honda engine with 15 laps remaining.

The result extends Raikkonen's championship lead, on a weekend when Michael Schumacher admitted that Ferrari "wasn't quite strong enough."