Immediately behind the action at the front, the race was strangely static. Schumacher briefly grabbed fourth from Button off the line, but succumbed to the Briton's F-duct on the way to turn twelve before the lap was out. From there, the German had a relatively comfortable ride to fourth, with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg running just over a second adrift behind him.
Likewise, Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa remained in formation throughout, the Renault-mounted Pole only appearing threatened when the pair pitted together on lap 13, but managed to rejoin just ahead of the Ferrari, which had to settle for seventh and eighth on the occasion of the team's 800th grand prix appearance.
Massa was backed up by Fernando Alonso, who recovered from a disappointing qualifying session that left him twelfth fastest to claim four points, but had to thank a touch with the stubborn Vitaly Petrov that left the hapless Russian with a puncture. Petrov made it back to the pits and, armed with fresh rubber, showed just what the Renault was capable of by clocking the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour.
Adrian Sutil managed to get the better of Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi early on, and the move proved enough to give the German ninth place in the final reckoning. Kobayashi still had reason to be satisfied, however, with tenth place enough to open Sauber's account for the season after six races of frustration for the Swiss team.
Pedro de la Rosa backed his rookie team-mate up in eleventh, the first time that Sauber has got both cars to the finish, with Jaime Alguersuari - another to temporarily hold fastest lap courtesy of fresh tyres - heading Tonio Liuzzi, Rubens Barrichello and Petrov.
Sebastien Buemi saw his race effectively ended when he had to pit with a puncture on lap one, but still managed to battle his way back past the new team drivers, and the second development-restricted Williams of Nico Hulkenberg to claim 16th.
Lotus should have won the newcomer battle having dominated qualifying, but Jarno Trulli retired on lap 32 and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen stopped in the pits a lap later, handing the initiative to an increasingly-solid Virgin Racing. Although Lucas di Grassi was forced to start from pit-lane after a late oil leak was detected on his VR-01, the Brazilian provided adequate back-up to team-mate Timo Glock as the Dinnington equipe
claimed a division three 1-2. HRT's Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok were both late retirements.
Formula One now heads to Canada with Red Bull having ceded the constructors' advantage to McLaren, and the Woking team appearing to have made significant gains on track as well as off it. Red Bull, meanwhile, showed that it is still capable of shooting itself in the foot, underlining the fact that the championship battle is far from over.