Felipe Massa's move to Ferrari finally brought its reward, as the Brazilian recorded the first grand prix win of his interrupted career by beating Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher to the line in Turkey.
Massa led from start to finish in another action-packed race but, while the real drama took place in his wake, the 25-year old's success was not assured until the last lap, as Alonso defended for all he was worth to keep Schumacher at bay.
The two title contenders almost came to blows at the start, with Schumacher making a sluggish getaway and Alonso appearing to have got the jump on the Ferrari into turn one. Schumacher fought back, forcing his rival to take avoiding action which prompted team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella to spin and the rest of the field to scatter.
While Massa, Schumacher and Alonso made a break, the order behind them appeared very scrambled at the end of the opening lap, with Mark Webber up to fourth from night, and Williams colleague Nico Rosberg helping the Aussie sandwich Jenson Button having made the leap to sixth from 14th. Not so lucky were Fisichella, who lost his nose as he spun to avoid Alonso, and Nick Heidfeld, who also required cosmetic surgery after being collected in the melee. Tiago Monteiro failed to make it to the end of the lap, while Kimi Raikkonen became the third pit visitor, despite seemingly missing the worst of the mayhem.
The Finn had steered around the spinning Fisichella, only to be collected by Scott Speed, who was also trying to take avoiding action. Raikkonen was pitched into a spin of his own and, despite resuming, quickly realised that his left rear Michelin had been shredded by the American's endplate. Like Fisichella and Heidfeld, the McLaren man made it back to the pits for a replacement, but the stop took longer than expected as his crew struggled to untangle the flailed rubber from the suspension. The delay mattered little, however, for Raikkonen made it only as far as turn eight on lap two, crashing out after running wide at Istanbul Park's signature corner.
At the same time as Raikkonen was departing stage right, Button seized fourth from Webber, while Rosberg came under pressure from Robert Kubica, who had the unlikely train of Christian Klien, Tonio Liuzzi, Pedro de la Rosa and David Coulthard in his wake. Jarno Trulli was the leading Toyota in twelfth, but had survived a tangle with team-mate Ralf Schumacher in the turn one confusion, the German having dropped back to 16th as a result.
de la Rosa and Trulli were soon on the move and, taking their cues from the morning's GP2 encounter, proved that it was possible for F1 cars to overtake around the undulating circuit. Coulthard and Liuzzi quickly fell victim to the charging duo, who then lined up Klien as the next target. Massa, meanwhile, had made the most of a lighter fuel load and a clear track to extend his advantage to three seconds over team-mate Schumacher, with Alonso paying for an early error as he watched the German disappear five seconds down the road.
At this stage, the relative fuel loads of the top three appeared to be the key to the race, with Massa reckoned to be lighter than either man in his mirrors, and therefore needing to open out a sizeable advantage before making his first stop. The opinion in the pit-lane, however, was that the Brazilian would be required to 'move over' for Schumacher in order to maximise the German's title chances, but the Scuderia also needed to ensure that he could slot back in between Schumacher and Alonso for the same reason.
That tactic was taken out of Ross Brawn's hands on lap twelve, as Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso and lost the engine. As the Italian stepped from his stranded machine, the stewards called for the safety car, throwing a curve ball at the strategists. Ferrari promptly called both its drivers in, figuring that it could stack Schumacher behind Massa and still get the pair out ahead of Alonso when the Spaniard made his stop. Renault's Pat Symonds was wise to the move, however, and hailed the world champion at the same time. The move worked a treat too, as Alonso was able to power past Schumacher while the German was taking his fill, assuming second place, and simultaneously handing Massa the best chance of victory he is likely to get between now and Brazil in October.