Massa, Hamilton and Kubica were still tussling it out over the runner-up spot, just under three seconds adrift of race leader Raikkonen with half-distance completed, though the Finn seemed merely to be pacing himself and able to turn up the wick at will. On laps 39 and 40 Hamilton again gave a small indication of what McLaren's true pace could be should the team only be able to properly unlock it, by lapping quicker than Raikkonen for two laps in succession, but there was misery for Rosberg, who like Alonso suffered an engine failure coming onto the pit straight, dashing the young German's hopes of a points finish.
Rosberg's despair, though, was in stark contrast to the mood at Force India, with Fisichella – 5.4 seconds behind Nakajima – graduating into the points after Super Aguri brought Sato in early for his second stop, electing for a long final stint of the race. The Italian was the next driver to blink, with 22 laps remaining, but Heidfeld was the real danger man back in 13th, the BMW ace piling the pressure on Button, Coulthard and Glock in front of him, though he too was in next time around – his third pit visit of a frustrating afternoon – rejoining in the wheeltracks of his quarry Fisichella.
Massa then set a new fastest lap of race with 20 laps to go to deflate Hamilton's charge somewhat, but that sudden spurt of pace was explained by his pitting at the end of the lap, with Webber and Trulli doing likewise, though the latter was delayed by a tardy stop. Raikkonen, Hamilton and Kubica were again all in together, with a slow getaway seeing the long-time race leader only narrowly preserve his advantage over team-mate Massa. Hamilton similarly retained a small edge ahead of Kubica, with little to choose between any of the four with 18 laps left to run.
Heidfeld, meanwhile, was harrying Fisichella for all he was worth for the final points' position, the Italian desperately trying to cling on but under considerable pressure. Glock then went and jumped Fisichella in his second stop, shattering FIF1's ambitions of a point under the Spanish sun, but shortly afterwards the German collided with Coulthard in turn five, as the Toyota attempted a pass from a long way back, breaking his own front wing and leaving the Scot with a left rear puncture. Coulthard rejoined down in an unlucky 13th place, having been run into for what must seem to be the nth time this season.
Heidfeld then drove all the way around the outside of Fisichella into turn one to finally make the move stick, after the Italian had got out of shape coming through the last corner and – despite doggedly holding the inside line down the pit straight – proving unable to stave off the BMW's irresistibly greater pace.
With nine laps remaining a scant seven seconds blanketed the top four challengers, though in truth none of them had ever really threatened to make a move on the driver ahead, and the status quo
would remain as such all the way to the chequered flag, with just 5.6 seconds separating Raikkonen, Massa, Hamilton and Kubica.
Webber was half a minute further back in fifth for his third consecutive points' finish of the 2008 campaign – and one that has strengthened his own position in the drivers' world standings – with Button coming home a brilliant sixth after lapping faster than anyone
bar Hamilton in the closing stages. Nakajima and a disappointed Trulli – who was mistakenly called into the pits for a phantom stop towards the end in the wake of Glock's coming-together with Coulthard, costing him a couple of places – took the final points-paying positions.
Behind them, Heidfeld got within four seconds of the top eight at the close, with Fisichella, Glock, Coulthard and Sato completing the finishers, the latter duo having waged a fraught tussle in the dying laps in an effort to avoid the ignominy of the wooden spoon.
Up front, though, the two main talking points of the race both revolved around Finns – one who had been lucky to emerge from the biggest accident of the season so far, and the other who had sent his rivals a warning message that he will be very, very tough to beat in 2008.
To see the race results in full, click here