Norris was the biggest loser though. Running sixth on lap nine, the decision to pit the Briton plummeted him down the order to 14th position and all but ended his hopes of a strong result for the rest of the night.
Those who had opted to remain out gained major track position. Ricciardo rose from eighth place to fifth while Ocon moved from seventh to fourth for the race restart, behind Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas.
The first restart was pivotal to how the podium fight unfolded as there was still a decent chance for Bottas to join in with the title-contending duo ahead of him.
Those hopes were dashed just a few hundred meters after the lights went out for the second time. A lock-up into the first corner heavily compromised him, allowing Ocon and Ricciardo to slip through for position.
As Verstappen rejoined the circuit, his Red Bull blocked Hamilton’s path through Turn 2 and it meant Ocon could dip underneath the Mercedes and steal second position on the run to Turn 3.
Bottas had skipped over the T2 apex as well further back, allowing Ricciardo free space behind Ocon to surge around the outside of the Finn and secure fourth position heading into the tunnel-esque run to T3.
It was a costly error for Bottas as it defined the rest of his race even after the second restart.
Further back, Norris’s miserable night got even worse. A very cautious approach from the McLaren driver into Turn 1 on the restart allowed Alonso and Nicholas Latifi to slip through for position, and after the crash between Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez up ahead, he was last of the remaining drivers for the second and final restart of the race in P16.
Ocon was quickly looking in his mirrors for the championship contenders, likely keen to avoid any contact with the pair that might affect the world title battle. His efforts were in vain as Verstappen launched an attack on Hamilton and the Frenchman was lucky to emerge without a puncture following contact with Hamilton’s front wing.
No harm done, he slotted into second and after Hamilton passed him on the following lap, enjoyed clear air for much of the race.
Bottas almost had a move on Ricciardo completed exiting Turn 2 but with the inside line into Turn 3, the McLaren driver held onto the position and remained ahead for the majority of the night afterwards.
That was a crucial moment for the Mercedes driver’s race. Without clear air ahead of him, his pace was limited to that of Ricciardo as he suffered in the turbulent wake unable to find a route past the Australian.
As the drivers began to scrap on track, debris soon went flying and the stop/start middle section of the race was littered with virtual safety cars, further limiting Bottas but aiding Ocon up ahead.
With the Mercedes stuck in traffic and unable to get few clean racing laps in which to attempt a pass before another interruption, he spent 24 laps behind Ricciardo before he finally made a pass stick into Turn 1 on lap 40.
As Ricciardo struggled to hold Bottas back, his medium compound tyres were well past their best and his speed flatlined relative to the rivals around him.
As evident in the above chart, once Bottas was clear of Ricciardo, his true pace was unleashed. A string of laps in the 1min 31sec range is not too far off of team-mate and race leader Hamilton and the Finn quickly reached the third-place man.
Shown in the graphic here, Ricciardo’s struggles were serious when compared with his own team-mate.
Norris was the only driver in the top 10 to start on the soft compound tyres and his early stop ended up costing him dearly. He was then on a recovery drive to 10th place by the end but he was hampered further by the intermittent VSC phase of the grand prix.
Without a real rhythm to the race, it wasn’t until the closing stages that his pace was unleashed and properly evident again.