Once Bottas also cleared Magnussen at the penultimate corner it was clear slick tyres were worth a gamble despite teams fearing more rain, and Ricciardo – with nothing to lose at the back of the field – was first to jump. As soon as the McLaren posted an improved middle sector on his out lap, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon followed him in, before all but Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris did so on the next lap.
A slow stop hurt Hamilton as he was beaten out of the pits by Esteban Ocon, although an unsafe release saw the Frenchman emerge alongside the Mercedes initially and force Hamilton to brake, earning Ocon a five-second time penalty. Hamilton dropped to 14th behind those on warmer tyres and found himself stuck from that point on, as one dry line emerged that made overtaking nigh-on impossible.
There was little happening without DRS activated, but lap 41 saw a remarkable moment as Verstappen – now some ten seconds clear of Perez and Leclerc – lapped Hamilton. It was around that time that DRS was finally enabled but Hamilton found himself in a train behind Gasly and Albon, preventing any of those involved to make further progress. In fact, only Yuki Tsunoda was making moves, reeling in Magnussen and passing him for eighth on lap 47.
But two laps later, after what had been a largely processional race, Ferrari tried something different that would ultimately backfire. Leclerc stopped for a second time for soft tyres, forcing Perez to do the same and allowing Verstappen a free stop too.
Perez stayed ahead, although Leclerc was close and put pressure on, but just as the fight looked to be settling down the championship leader took too much kerb at the Curva Gresini and spun into the wall, damaging his front wing. Leclerc managed to recover to the pits but the resulting stop dropped him to ninth.
Suddenly, there was action as Leclerc had ten laps to fight back, and he managed to dispatch Magnussen, Vettel and Tsunoda to climb back to sixth, but ahead of him Bottas was well clear.
“It is a big shame,” Leclerc said. “Whatever happened before the spin it’s how it is, it’s part of racing you know. But I believe that the spin should not have happened today. I mean P3 was the best I could do, we didn’t have the pace for much more and I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points compared to my third place I was before.
“It is a shame, it’s seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship for sure, this shouldn’t happen again.”
Had Bottas tried a risky move on Russell late on Leclerc might have had an added bonus, but there was no repeat of the pair’s collision a year ago as the Finn settled for fifth, while the new Mercedes driver continued a quite remarkable run in a difficult car.
Even more remarkable was Norris standing on the podium given where McLaren started 2022, but he was quick all weekend and it was just reward for a strong drive.