Schumacher showed the delicacy of the choice, spinning at the final corner and retiring the beached Toyota, while Adrian Sutil
ended a difficult weekend by clattering the barriers behind his fellow German, nearly taking out a camera position as he too sailed into retirement.
The tricky conditions prompted Hamilton to become more cautious, allowing Raikkonen to close right on to the tail of the Mclaren by lap 26. The Finn made a couple of attempts to take the lead, only for Hamilton to defend. The resistance was needless in the bigger championship picture, but demonstrated Hamilton's mindset, the Briton apparently determined to take the title in style. What he didn't know, however, was that his tyres were in a worse state than his rivals - a lot
His early pace had already taken its toll on his front rubber by the time of his pit-stop, the left front almost a slick, but it was the opposite corner that ultimately brought about his downfall. Having eventually ceded to Raikkonen on lap 29, the Briton quickly fell into the clutches of Jarno Trulli, who had been in to change to the dry weather tyres. Even though the Italian ran off the road having passed the Mclaren, still Hamilton continued, his right rear now clearly showing a white furrow as the rubber delaminated.
With Raikkonen eight seconds to the good, and Hamilton running off at turn one, Mclaren appeared to give in to the inevitable, with the Briton ducking into pit lane at the end of lap 31. With less traffic having run over it, however, the pit-lane entry surface was wetter than the rest of the track and, carrying too much speed, Hamilton skated wide at the tight left turn. Almost in slow motion, the McLaren
skated into the waiting gravel trap - itself an unusual feature - and Hamilton was unable to coax it out, despite repeated attempts and a gathering crowd of marshals. Reluctantly, the Briton climbed out, his first DNF of the season coming at precisely the moment he least needed it.
The dramatic turnaround not only left Raikkonen comfortably out front, but also promoted Alonso to second, the Spaniard having found a way past Massa with a cutback move at the hairpin on lap 26. The pair pitted simultaneously a lap after Hamilton's demise, both able to take the turn with their ailing rubber in better condition, and dropping only behind Robert Kubica
as a result.
The Pole's moment of glory out front may not have been expected to last long, but was cut short when his BMW
Sauber failed under him, allowing the remaining title contenders back into the top positions, with Kimi enjoying an eight-second advantage over his foe.
Although the drying conditions still contained the odd tricky area, as Raikkonen found on lap 39, the leading trio - with Massa in third - were seldom troubled, leaving the focus of attention to fall on the battle for the remaining points positions.
Poor tyre decisions had dropped David Coulthard
away from the fifth place he had held in the early stages, and, although Kubica and Nick Heidfeld
- amongst others -both moved up to be 'best of the rest', the closing stages saw the less likely pairing of Jenson Button
and Vettel scrapping over the position. The German found a way through with 16 laps remaining and pulled away from those around him, having been involved in a multi-car squabble with STR team-mate Liuzzi, the two Renaults, Trulli and the two Williams-Toyotas in the early stages.
Liuzzi and Heidfeld engaged in the closest top eight scrap as they diced over sixth, while Coulthard reclaimed the final points position but remained under threat from Heikki Kovalainen
to the flag. The Finn's hopes of maintaining his coring run had been largely scuppered in the first part of the race, his Renault
suffering major understeer that dropped him down the order. Team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, after qualifying poorly, was moving in the opposite direction, flying in the latter stages, but unable to improve on eleventh after his second stop dropped him out of the points.
Raikkonen and Alonso were a long way in front of the interest by the end, the Finn taking the chequered flag for Ferrari's 200th F1 win almost a minute before the ecstatic Vettel greeted his crew with a display that trumped that of the winner.