In a spectacular Bahrain Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag to cut his team-mate Nico Rosberg’s overall lead to 11 points.
It was an absolute thriller from lights to flag with more overtaking moves than you could shake your DRS at, a series of memorable tussles between team-mates and even the introduction of the safety car after a breathtaking collision to add extra drama to the closing stages.
It was all played out under 5,000 blazing lights in the desert of this Gulf kingdom and the fireworks that exploded into the night sky were a worthy celebration of the best race for years.
Like all great races, it had a compelling climax. It came when the safety car, which had been introduced following Pastor Maldonado's crash with Esteban Gutierrez left the stage for the final Mercedes duo double act. The safety car had wiped out Hamilton's advantage of 9½ seconds over his team-mate. And now Rosberg, on the faster soft-compound rubber and also armed with DRS after a two-lap delay, was the clear favourite with Hamilton wearing the harder medium tyres.
Paddy Lowe, Mercedes' executive director, had his heart in his mouth but somehow got words to
his drivers: “With 10 laps left to race let’s bring both cars home.”
That did not prevent an electric final head-to-head, one which reprised the start of the race and the unforgettable duel over laps 18 and 19, when the lead changed a handful of times.
Rosberg again ran wheel to wheel with Hamilton and time and again appeared to have the advantage only for the British driver to hang on by the skin of his tyres; his 24th victory equals the record of the great Juan Manuel Fangio.
He said afterwards: “I haven’t had a race like that since 2007 . . . I was on a real knife edge at the end but just managed to take it.”
Rosberg, who rugby-charged his team-mate in a boisterous double celebration at the end, said: “I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis, I have to say that. But it was definitely the most exciting race I have ever raced in my career.”
But what made this race truly extraordinary was the fact that the breathless fencing between Hamilton and Rosberg was replicated – albeit at a slightly less frenetic level – by other teams, most memorably by Williams, Force India and Red Bull. It was ultimately Sergio Perez who took the third podium place, only Force India's second and their first since Spa in 2009.
Hamilton made a sensational start to the race, slipping through on the inside of Rosberg on turn one. Rosberg fought back but Hamilton squeezed him off the track on turn four. And so it went.
There was more disappointment for Ferrari, whose cars finished at the back of the top 10. And there was another painful defeat for Sebastian Vettel by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel had to fend off the Williams pair to hold on to sixth place. How times have changed for the world champion.