RBR's move allowed Raikkonen into the lead and, for some time, it looked as though Lotus has stolen a march, with the Finn also bordering on being able to go to the end, particularly given the Enstone team's ability to preserve its tyres and the fact that Webber had managed 36 laps on a race simulation earlier in the weekend.
With Vettel closing in, however, Lotus took the decision to pit the leader and switch him back to the softer compound, in the hope of being able to overhaul the German as his harder tyres faded. The stop also allowed Grosjean back into second spot, prompting the question of team orders should Raikkonen's progress go as intended.
Having advised the Frenchman that his team-mate was 'on a different strategy', Lotus was relieved to see that there was little resistance on Grosjean's part, Raikkonen sweeping through with five laps to run. From there, the Finn was able to eat into Vettel's slim advantage but, crucially, got to within spitting distance of gaining DRS assistance without being able to use it.
Vettel, who later revealed that he had been struggling with a KERS problem since the middle of the race, duly held on to win by a single second, with Lotus ruing its man getting stuck behind an intra-team battle involving the two Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass the slower Nico Rosberg between their respective first stops.
Grosjean naturally cut a slightly dejected figure on the podium, despite collecting his first points – also for third place – since Bahrain, sensing that he had had a chance to take his first F1, and at a time when his seat at Lotus is still thought to be under threat.
The Frenchman almost lost third place to Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard having had another stealthy run into a decent points finish. Without ever seeming to have the pace of the two teams ahead of him, the Ferrari driver kept himself in contention for a top five result, before homing in on Grosjean late on, eventually missing out on a podium by a couple of seconds.
Behind Alonso, places were changing right to the end, not least for fifth, where Hamilton passed countryman Button on the final lap. Having seen his pole position advantage wiped out in the distance from lights to turn one, the Briton struggled with the medium tyres as well as being delayed behind Rosberg, but fought back in the closing stages to take advantage of Button being baulked by the Caterhams.
Button, clearly frustrated, crossed the line in sixth spot, equalling his Monaco result, while Webber, having been able to unlap himself under the safety car for Bianchi's runaway Marussia, charged up the order to claim seventh – some reward for what he later described as 'a massive own goal' in pit-lane.
The Australian's final victim was the second McLaren of Sergio Perez, which had earlier gone wheel-to-wheel with Button through turn one as McLaren attempted to make the most of starting the Mexican on the softer tyre. A relatively uneventful race saw Perez bounce around the lower reaches of the points before eventually taking four points, with a comfortable advantage over Rosberg and the battling Nico Hulkenberg who, for the second weekend in a row, salvaged a vital point for the struggling Sauber team.
Missing out this time around was Force India, which brought Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil home in eleventh and 13th, either side of Daniel Ricciardo, who was unable, on this occasion, to translate a top ten start into points. Team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a second successive DNF, joining Bianchi and Felipe Massa – who spun inexplicably at turn one early in the race – on the sidelines.