Lewis Hamilton prevailed in a titanic tussle with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg to win the 900th Grand Prix.
Hamilton made a better start than Rosberg and took the lead at the first corner. However, unlike Malaysia, he didn’t disappear into the distance, with Rosberg having numerous attempts to wrestle back the lead.
After the first round of pit stops, Hamilton held a six second lead over his team mate, who was on prime tyres, but the complexion of the race would change late on. The safety car made an appearance on lap 41 following a collision between Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado at the first corner that see the Sauber driver roll.
The badly damaged car landed back on its wheels, and the Mexican was fortunately able to climb out uninjured. But with debris on the racing line, and the car in a precarious position, the safety car was called.
The resultant pit stops saw both Mercedes drivers pit. Hamilton changed onto the prime tyre, with Rosberg on the option. When racing resumed on lap 47, it appeared that Rosberg was in the pound seat to retake the lead of the race.
Any worries about team orders were swiftly forgotten. Just before the race restarted, team boss Paddy Lowe issued an order to both drivers to “bring the car home.” But Rosberg was soon attacking his team mate again, and had no less than three attempts to take the lead in the closing laps.
Hamilton gamely held on, and would take the chequered flag with a winning margin of just one second over Rosberg.
The breathless battle for the lead was just one story from a thrilling race.
The contest for best of the rest was between Force India and Williams for the majority of the race. It wasn’t just the Mercedes team mates who were fighting however, with Perez, Hulkenberg and Bottas and Massa swapping places throughout the race.
Ultimately, third place would go the way of Sergio Perez, who came under pressure from Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages of the race. Ricciardo battled his way back from a ten place grid penalty and got the better of his champion team mate, Sebastian Vettel.
Hulkenberg was passed by Ricciardo, but managed to stay ahead of reigning champion Sebastian Vettel. Vettel was only one of two drivers to start on the medium tyre, and finished ahead of a disappointing Williams duo. Despite making a brilliant start to run third in the opening laps, Massa finished seventh with Bottas fading from third to eighth.
It was a difficult day for Ferrari. After starting in fifth, Kimi Raikkonen had a poor opening lap and would drop behind team mate Fernando Alonso. Neither driver had a race to write home about, and spent most the evening behind overtaken by Force Indias. Alonso finished ninth, with Raikkonen in tenth.
McLaren suffered a dismal race. Neither driver made the chequered flag, with Kevin Magnussen pulling off the circuit shortly after the safety car had been deployed. It was later confirmed that the Dane had retired after a clutch failure. Meanwhile, Jenson Button, in his 250th race, coasted into the pits to retire just a few laps from the end.
Adrian Sutil was the first retirement of the race, after coming into contact with Jules Bianchi twice. The Frenchman would be penalised for his involvement, with Sutil retiring with an apparent puncture. Jean Eric Vergne was also in the wars early on, colliding with Pastor Maldonado on the opening lap.
Vergne, would crawl back to the pits with a puncture, was vocal over his radio about the Venezuelan’s driving, but would retire not long after. Marcus Ericcson would also fail to make it to the end of the race. His team mate, Kamui Kobayashi, finished fifteenth.
In the points standings, Nico Rosberg continues to lead the championship over Lewis Hamilton. The margin between the two Silver Arrows drivers, which stood at 18 points coming into this weekend, has been reduced to 11. Nico Hulkenberg is in third.
Mercedes holds a substantial lead in the constructors’ championship. The German manufacturer has a 67 point advantage over Force India.
The fourth round of the 2014 F1 World Championship takes place in Shanghai, China, in two weeks’ time.