Button should have been in position to take control of the race, but had misjudged a move on Karthikeyan - for position - and damaged his front wing, necessitating another stop, which dropped him almost to the rear of the field. Unlike last year's Canadian Grand Prix, and despite immediately setting the fastest lap to that point, there was to be no reprieve, and no stunning victory, as a fourth stop in the first third of the race was required to fit the McLaren with another set of inters....
The reactivation of DRS on lap 20 continued to keep the order moving, with Rosberg an early casualty as Vettel, Raikkonen and Webber all passing the Mercedes within the space of two laps. Massa, too, should have passed the German, but made a mistake when poised to make his move, leaving him at the mercy of Vergne, who duly claimed eighth place. Senna, seemingly suffering no other ill-effects of his opening lap excursion, was also on the move and by half-distance was on the fringe of the points.
At the front, the order was led by Alonso, with Perez, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Webber, Paul di Resta, Vergne, Senna and Nico Hulkenberg making up the top ten. Schumacher had recovered to twelfth, despite his Mercedes continuing to have a voracious appetite for tyres, while Button remained mired down in 18th. The developing story, however, was the pace of Perez's Sauber, which was beginning to eat into Alonso's advantage at a rate of several tenths a lap.
Although a dry line was beginning to form, the constant threat of rain kept the teams on their toes, some happy to take the risk and others seemingly trying to prolong the life of their inters lest the deluge return. In the end, all were forced to give in to the temptation of running several seconds a lap faster. Daniel Ricciardo was among the first to pit, with the leader following suit three laps later. Strangely, Sauber opted to keep Perez out a lap longer than Alonso, allowing the Mexican to retake the lead, but ultimately denying him the chance of dropping in right behind the Ferrari when he rejoined.
The Swiss team also fitted the harder Pirelli to Perez's car, contrasting with the medium option preferred by the majority of the field, and a slow getaway should have ended his dreams of catching and passing the double world champion at the head of the field. Perez, however, was not yet done with Alonso, and again set about hacking chunks out of the Spaniard's lead.
From seven seconds adrift when he rejoined after his stop on lap 41, the Mexican was on the Ferrari's tail by lap 48, only for a message from the team urging caution to appear to distract him. Although the resulting error wasn't terminal, running wide at the final corner effectively handed victory to the Scuderia, even though he proceeded to trim the margin back to a couple of seconds by the flag.
Hamilton had also suffered a problematic final stop, with time lost as the team attempted to remove tape blanking his front brake discs, but the Briton continued in third spot, ahead of Vettel and Webber. The German then copied Button in making a mistake in the company of Karthikeyan, suffering a puncture as he clipped the errant HRT and dropping out of the points as he headed for the pits. The German would be classified eleventh, but only amid hurried calls from Red Bull urging him to stop as resulting problems forced his brake temperatures sky high.
With the pressure eased on Hamilton, Webber took a comfortable fourth, ahead of Raikkonen, Senna, di Resta, Vergne - scoring his first points second time out - Hulkenberg and Schumacher, who was promoted back into the points when the luckless Pastor Maldonado, who had crashed on the penultimate lap in Australia, suffered an engine failure at the same time in round two.
However, the day, or evening as it now was, belonged to Alonso, who moved to the head of the championship standings as a result of his win, and Perez who, if he needed an audition to replace the hapless Massa alongside the Spaniard, passed with flying colours. What chance the two being team-mates before the year is out....