As the laps ticked down, the major interest was focussed upon whether Webber could whittle down the 8.9-second gap separating him from second-placed Raikkonen over the final twelve laps, and in so doing nibble a couple more points out of Button's championship lead and stake his claim to be the Red Bull
driver receiving the backing for a title push.
The Brawn pit-stops worked out well for Button and Barrichello, with the former comfortably clearing Trulli and the latter leapfrogging three rivals into the top ten for the first time and with a genuine sniff of a world championship point just ahead of him in the shape of Toyota's Italian veteran, with Nakajima between the pair. Glock, meanwhile, stayed out as late as lap 60 of 70, leaving Webber with a clear track ahead of him to his quarry Raikkonen – and the chase was on.
A personal best from the hunter was countered by his prey, though a new fastest lap to the tune of a staggering half a second showed just how hard Webber was pushing, whilst in a similar scenario further back, the still-charging Glock was fast homing in on fifth-placed Kovalainen, reducing the gap to just a single second with two laps left to run.
Ultimately, though, the order would remain the same to the chequered flag, with the imperious Hamilton crossing the line more than ten seconds clear of runner-up Raikkonen in an unprecedented KERS one-two, and Webber a solid third five seconds in arrears further still. Rosberg found himself just off the podium again in an excellent fourth, with Kovalainen hanging on to fifth ahead of the hard-charging Glock, Button coming in a low-key and frustrated seventh and Trulli successfully fending off Nakajima and Barrichello for the final marker.
The finishers were completed by Heidfeld, Piquet – whose days at Renault
now seem irreversibly numbered as Flavio Briatore disgruntedly left the circuit before the grand prix was even over – Kubica, Fisichella and Scuderia Toro Rosso
duo Jaime Alguersuari
and Sébastien Buemi, with the young rookie who some drivers had argued should not even be allowed on-track due to his inexperience at the highest level impressively getting the better of his team-mate at the very first time of asking.
The only fly in Hamilton's ointment, indeed, was that after holding fastest lap for most of the race, he was pipped to the honour by Webber in the closing stages. No matter, though – he still had the winner's trophy with which to console himself. And the knowledge that McLaren
are back – and back with a bang.
Crash.net Driver of the Day: Lewis Hamilton
(for reminding everybody – if indeed anybody needed reminding – just why he is the reigning F1 World Champion, after more than nine months away in the doldrums)
To see the race result in full, click here