Lewis Hamilton took his second race win of the season as Brawn and Jenson Button took a step closer to wrapping up the title in Singapore.
Hamilton was in dominating form all race, only losing the lead briefly in the second round of pitstops, however, his apparent dominance may have owed as much to the faltering efforts of his nearest rivals.
From the start it was the Williams' of Nico Rosberg who took second from Vettel, taking advantage of his grid slot on the cleaner side of track to slice across the nose of the Red Bull in the run towards the first corner.
Rosberg kept his second position until his first pitstop on lap 18. While the stop itself was faultless the young German's exit from the pitlane proved disastrous. Perhaps unfamiliar with racing exits from the new, safer, slower pitlane exit the Williams simply understeered over the kerb island separating the pitlane from the apex of turn, and though Rosberg quickly recovered to the correct side of white line the damage was done.
Then came the safety car. “the safety car came out at the worst possible moment. It left me with a really horrible feeling,” said Rosberg, who would serve his obligatory drive through penalty after the safety car, and plummet to 13th and heartbreakingly away from a chance of victory.
The reason for the safety car had already ruined two races, though neither challenging for any sort of glory. Stuck towards the back after a dismal qualifying (at least by recent standards) Adrian Sutil had a frustrated and half-hearted attempt at passing Jaime Alguersuari at the end of the Esplanade Bridge.
The Force India spun at the apex of the corner, and in his haste to point the car back in the correct direction Sutil flicked the car around. Just in time for Nick Heidfeld to wipe the nose of the VJM02 and destroy the right-rear suspension of the BMW.
“For me it was clearly Adrian Sutil's fault. Obviously I saw it from the inside and later also on TV. He had spun backwards and then just drove back onto the track and straight into my car. That's something you just can't do,” fumed Heidfeld later about the “stupid incident”, to which Sutil could only meekly apologise “I'm sorry for it. It was a racing accident.”
Heidfeld retired on the spot while Sutil returned to the pits for a new nose, though accident related damage to his brakes saw the end of his race soon after.
The departure of Rosberg from second passed the Hamilton challenging mantle back to Vettel, with the Red Bull taking chunks out of Hamilton's lead soon after the restart, latching onto the McLaren's rear wing, but never able to pass.
But again the pitlane was about to help Hamilton.
Vettel pitted on lap 39. Again the stationary time was unremarkable, and unlike Rosberg he exited the pitlane cleanly. But the damage had already been done.
“Car 15 under investigation for speeding in the pitlane” came the official announcement. There was only ever one outcome – another driver through, but that was not Vettel's only problem. Running wide at turn five, the turn that claimed Rubens Barrichello in qualifying, the Red Bull mounted the kerb on the exit, shearing planes from the crucial diffuser on the back of the car, throwing all important downforce away.
Shortly after came one of the more bizarre scenes from the weekend, as both Toro Rossos where wheeled into retirement in synchronisation. At the time it was presumed it was down to problems with the fuel rig, after Alguersuari had tried to leave the pits with it still attached, only pulling a car length away, but still damaging the system enough that at Buemi's next stop no fuel came out.
In fact, it was two different problems, brakes forcing Alguersuari's end while gearbox issues stopped Buemi. Or at least that's the official line.
Brakes would have more roles to play in the race as Hamilton enjoyed the remainder of the race relatively pressure free.
Mark Webber came into the pits with a right front brake problem, the clouds of carbon dust giving it away before a mechanic groped inside the brake duct in the pits. The man seemed to have found something, but it wasn't the problem.
Only a few laps later another cloud of brake dust erupted from the right front on Webber's car as he braked for turn one, the car spun 180 degrees, backing over the large run off area and into the barriers, into retirement, and officially out of title contention.
The Red Bull woes, meanwhile, were playing squarely into the hand of Brawn GP, who needed 16 more points than their rivals to seal the constructor's title. With Webber out, they were a step closer, but Vettel was still, despite drive through and damaged splitter, ahead of both white cars in fourth.
Button was leading the charge to overhaul the remaining Red Bull, but soon had to drop back with his own brake problems, betrayed once more by black plumes coming from the front right wheel, darkening the day-glo spinner as extra evidence.
As the problem worsened the challenge to Vettel took second place to defence from Barrichello who was gaining at Button had to nurse his car to the finish, eventually losing all of the ten second margin he had to cross the line only 1.8 seconds clear of Barrichello and adding another point to his lead in the drivers' title.
Ahead of the Brawns and Vettel, two surprising drivers had found their way onto the podium. Third was Alonso, and his sponsorship stripped Renault, a result stand-in team principal Bob Bell hoped would give his team “great strength to move on”.
Ahead of Alonso was , perhaps, an even bigger surprise. Timo Glock, equalling his (and Toyota's) best ever result in second ahead of their home race, where they expect a raft of updates for the car.
Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica came home seventh and eight for minor points, but the day belonged to Hamilton.
“This is the perfect end to a fantastic weekend,” he said. “We came here hoping for a good result – and I wanted to redeem myself after the last lap in Monza – and we got it!”