The team extended Lewis' opening stint for as long as his lap times were competitive and pitted him on lap 25 for fresh Softs, car No.44 pitting out 13s behind Vettel's now-leading Ferrari. Valtteri was a further 8s down with Räikkönen another 3s in arrears.
Worth noting was that Valtteri was not going quite as quickly on his fresh Softs as Vettel was on his starting set. Which suggested two things: first, there was less degradation on the Soft than might have been expected in the blistering 60-degreee track temperature heat. Second, it looked as if the Ferrari may have two or three tenths pace advantage. Lewis still had a fight on his hands at this stage.
Vettel's pit stop was key. Ideally, he wanted to get to around lap 40 to leave just 30 laps on Ultras to try and close down Lewis. On lap 30 he had a fairly comfortable pit window over Valtteri's third place (23s against the necessary 21s), but then he hit traffic. The blue flags and back markers were not kind to him and, on lap 37, the gap was down to 21.8s - marginal! This was an unexpected bonus for Mercedes and Valtteri was told to push.
Successive quick laps from No.77 meant that when Vettel's front left did not locate properly and he was stationary for 4.2s, the Ferrari, crucially, came out behind the No.77 Mercedes.
Vettel at this stage was 9s behind Lewis, who was on the slower Soft tyre, with 30 of the 70 laps still to run. The Ferrari needed to negotiate Valtteri quickly, before the edge went off Vettel's UltraSofts. He couldn't. Not for another 25 laps!
"That's the best race so far from Valtteri at Mercedes," proclaimed a beaming Toto after the race.