On a sweltering afternoon, Pirelli’s tyres faded quicker than ever for the majority of the field and it was the two drivers in silver that suffered the most.
The characteristics of the W04 meant it was particularly brutal on tyres, unable to keep them within the ideal operating window before temperatures skyrocketed. The hotter the weather, the more adverse the effects. Sounds a little bit familiar.
That grid advantage lasted just a few hundred meters though as Alonso pulled off a stunning overtake to go from fifth to third in one corner.
Rosberg retained his lead into Turn One but a lock-up for Hamilton behind opened the door for Vettel who seized the inside line for Turn Two and barged his way by.
As Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen lost momentum attacking Turn Three, a superb bit of driving saw Fernando Alonso power to the outside line and sweep his Ferrari by both champions, sending the home crowd into delirium.
As early as lap three, Mercedes realised it was going to be forced into survival mode. Rosberg was told to protect his left rear with varying degrees of stress in race engineer Tony Ross’ voice.
Hamilton’s afternoon only worsened from there, as he was passed by the Lotus on lap seven after dropping several seconds to the leading trio of Rosberg, Vettel and Alonso.
The Spaniard’s attack on the race leader did not relent as he shadowed the Mercedes in front up until his first pit stop and an early switch to hards.
The leaders responded a lap later, all opting for the hard tyres bar Räikkönen, who fitted mediums to set up a three-stop race, but for Red Bull it’s reaction was too late.
As Rosberg emerged in the lead, Alonso’s stop the lap before netted him second with an undercut on the Vettel and he immediately began to set Rosberg up for an attack.