Hulkenberg and Kubica were in next, rejoining again in the same order – but the biggest beneficiary was Button, who leapfrogged both of them and very nearly jumped his own team-mate following Hamilton's stop several laps later, whilst talking of internecine team-mate duels, after getting bottled up behind Adrian Sutil, a disgruntled Schumacher found himself jumped by Nico Rosberg once the stops had all shaken out.
As Hamilton immediately set a new fastest lap on the fresher rubber, whilst the fired-up Button later squeezed his way around the outside of Petrov – before the pair of them both assertively found a way past the ever-combative Kamui Kobayashi, who had made his F1 debut in the very same race twelve months earlier, although the young Japanese star made Button work harder for the pass than he did Hamilton.
That left Vettel leading from Webber – with the gap ebbing-and-flowing between the pair although generally remaining at around two-and-a-half to three seconds – and Alonso third, a status quo that would be preserved following the trio's respective pit-stops. Hamilton and Button ran fourth and fifth, ahead of Kobayashi and Rosberg, with Sutil, Schumacher and Hulkenberg making it a Teutonic quartet at the foot of the top ten.
Whilst Vettel went on to set a new fastest lap, Webber beat it next time around, forcing his team-mate to push his engine to its absolute limit in order to successfully respond, well aware that the Heppenheim native has less mileage left in his motors than he does.
The 34-year-old closed to just 1.8 seconds shy of his team-mate before finding his momentum suddenly stopped in its tracks as he lost a full second lapping Hispania Racing rookie Bruno Senna, making clear his frustration with the Brazilian with a shake of the fist as he finally found a way past – and plenty more traffic looming up ahead, and none of it seeming to play in the Australian's favour...
As Rosberg cleared an understeer-plagued, non-stopping Kobayashi for P6, there was further misery for Barrichello as the Paulista picked up a left-front puncture following contact with Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari into Turn One, as the local star went for a bold move around the outside in his efforts to recover from his earlier delay.
In what was clearly not a good day for Brazilians, Virgin Racing rookie Lucas Di Grassi pulled into the garage, but of far more significance still, Vettel and Webber were fast approaching a gaggle of eight cars all in a line. This was getting critical. As Massa pulled cleanly out of Vettel's way, he was less generous towards Webber – and Sebastien Buemi was arguably even less accommodating towards the Australian still.
With Red Bull unwilling to implement team orders and Webber consequently taking the matter into his own hands as he relentlessly hunted his quarry down, but then the race was suddenly neutralised after Vitantonio Liuzzi lost control of his Force India and thumped it into the Turn Two tyre barriers, bringing out the safety car.
Fourth-placed Hamilton too advantage of the opportunity to come in to change his deteriorating tyres, having lamented that they were no longer giving him any grip – but more unexpectedly, Button pitted too, falling to the very back of the pack in the process, whilst Rosberg came in twice, following a miscommunication over tyre choice, yet somehow still maintained sixth place.
Another man with some overtaking to do was Webber, who with the safety car having blunted his charge still needed to clear the lapped Hulkenberg and Kubica if he was still to have a go at Vettel for the lead. As the safety car peeled back into the pit-lane, Vettel was presented with the gift of a clear track ahead – and just over two seconds in-hand over a somewhat sleepy Webber, as he set about scampering away and set a new fastest lap of the race to drive home his dominance. Three seconds separated the pair come the end of the lap.