Leclerc opted to set up an undercut by virtue of trailing Albon approaching the start of Lap 13.
The Ferrari man had clear air in front but Albon chose to stay out and extend his first stint, therefore allowing him to fit medium tyres versus Leclerc’s hard compound when he did stop four laps later.
Leclerc’s undercut worked but didn’t have nearly the effect he’d hoped as the Red Bull rejoined under a second behind.
The hot potato-ing of the lead continued as Albon swept into the lead with DRS but Leclerc fought him back, retaking first into Turn Four, slipstreaming assistance now off the table.
Vandoorne had now reached fourth in his fightback through the field but was some way behind Russell who had begun to catch the leading pair as they continued their own fight.
The lead Ferrari threw down the marker with 17 laps remaining, defending the inside into the first corner aggressively to fight Albon off. The pair ended up side-by-side from Turn One to Seven but for the first time all race, the leader from the previous lap held onto it, and Albon was forced into a rethink.
Another four laps of lead changes as they fought allowed Russell to within 4sec of them, but Leclerc made a crucial mistake on entry to Turn One, and earned himself a three-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining advantage by using a wide entry line to gain a run through the esses.
Albon’s lead was theoretically safe from that point on, as the lead switching continued and Russell closed in, neither compound held a significant advantage over the other.
The leading pair finally made contact in the middle section of the circuit, Leclerc trying his hardest to stick to the rear wing of the leader. With no damage on though, both escaped and continued their dice into the closing stages.
By the penultimate lap, the lead changes were almost innumerable, but Albon was able to this time resist Leclerc’s attempts at closing in, and Russell was now within striking distance to take third after the Ferrari driver’s time penalty had been added.
It was a phenomenal drive from Albon, six months on from losing what would have been his best result in F1 at the same venue, he scored a bit of retribution in some style.