Kimi's second straight win

Kimi Raikkonen celebrates after winning the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.-REUTERS

KIMI RAIKKONEN's fourth career Formula One victory will always be memorable. Winning in the Mediterranean principality makes it that way.

"It's a special place,'' said Raikkonen, who won the Monaco Grand Prix for his second straight victory. "Everybody looks at you in a slightly different way when you win in Monaco.''

"To win is always fantastic, but Monaco is a special challenge,'' added the Finn, who trails season leader Fernando Alonso of Renault by 22 points through six of 19 races.

Raikkonen in a McLaren-Mercedes led from the pole on the winding street circuit, the most glamorous venue in F-1.

Nick Heidfeld was second with third for Mark Webber, both in a Williams-BMW. Heidfeld was 13.8 seconds behind with Webber 18.4 off the pace. Alonso was fourth, his first time out of the top three this season.

Seven-time series champion Michael Schumacher finished seventh. He is winless in seven straight races, his longest drought since joining Ferrari. His last win was in Japan last season. "Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong at the beginning,'' said Schumacher, who damaged his car is a slow-speed collision early "I got stuck behind the Minardi that blocked the track, and I had to change the nose on the car.''

"Given everything that happened I have to be reasonably happy with my two points.''

Alonso leads the driver standings with 49 points. Raikkonen moved into second with 27 — 20 points in the last two races. Jarno Trulli of Toyota has 26 with Webber on 18 and Heidfeld on 17. Schumacher is in ninth place with 12 points.

Renault leads the teams standings with 63, followed by McLaren (51), Toyota (43), Williams (35), Ferrari (21).

There were no position changes over the first 23 laps among the top 15 cars. Raikkonen and the Renaults of Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella moved away from the rest by more than a second a lap.

Then things changed.

The Minardi of Christijan Albers ran into the wall coming down the hill after the Casino, blocking the track and causing problems. Michael Schumacher's Ferrari lost a front wing when he hit David Coulthard's Red Bull. The others behind came to a complete stop.

The safety car came on — going off after the 28th — as the gap between cars narrowed. Raikkonen had a problem with the safety car, missing an attempted pit stop. "So we decided to stay out because we had many laps to go and I thought we would be able to pull enough of a lead before my pit stop,'' Raikkonen said.

Raikkonen built the margin to 34.7 seconds before he went in for fuel on the 42nd lap. He came out ahead by more than 15 seconds with 36 laps to go and held that to complete the 78 laps of the 3.34-kilomtre (2.076-mile) street circuit.

Behind him Alonso had tyre problems and saw the chance of a podium finish disappear.

"In the last 20 laps things became really difficult,'' Alonso said. "I did all I could to keep the Williams behind me. The rear tyres were in poor condition and they could brake much later into the chicane.''

"Alonso was just getting slower and slower,'' Heidfeld said. Heidfeld moved past a slowing Alonso with six laps to go, and Webber moved up to third with three to go, both with daring moves.

"When your tyres go, you lose everything,'' Webber said. "In this business when you have no rear tyres you are going nowhere, and Fernando was going nowhere.''

It was Heidfeld's top finish and Webber's first podium. Juan Pablo Montoya, in the other McLaren was fifth followed by Ralf Schumacher's Toyota, Michael Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barrichello in eighth. Schumacher is still attempting to turn around a poor season. He hasn't won in Monaco since 2001, his longest winless streak at any race on the circuit. Earlier in the day, Raikkonen gained his third consecutive pole position. It may be the last time qualifying is spread over two days after the teams voted unanimously to change to Saturday qualifying only with a vote.

BAR-Honda was missing from the race as it served the second part of a two-ran ban.

The late Prince Rainier III was remembered before the race with a minute of silence. Prince Rainier died April 6 at the age of 81. He was a fixture at the race and missed only the 2003 race with illness.