But while Sebastian Vettel sealed his first victory since July - after he edged past pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas with a gutsy move at the first corner - it was Hamilton who stole the show following his breathtaking gallop through the field.
Mercedes opted to change several components on Hamilton's W08, taking his car out of parc ferme conditions, and equipped him with a fresh engine, meaning he started from the pit lane.
"In those first laps of the second stint I was able to stretch a bit of a gap and control that until the end, but basically we had the same pace".
This should have been a race where the American team scored points, but a disappointing qualifying and an even more disappointing race saw them leave empty-handed.
Starting second on the grid alongside polesitter Bottas, Vettel made the better getaway, and though he controlled the race from the front thereafter, his lead was rarely more than the 2.7s advantage he held at the chequered flag. "I was really happy with my approach on the way in because I've had a couple of wobbles this year at times which doesn't help the guys if the car doesn't come in in perfect position". With 11 wins and 41 podiums to his name, Massa has a fine record in the sport.
Although he has been retained by Mercedes for the 2018 season, Bottas' one-year extension does leave the door open for Ricciardo, currently with Red Bull, to steal his seat in 2019.
Verstappen said: "I don't feel like it. I feel like we have equal material, the team is working really hard on both sides".
Grosjean was unlucky to be served with a 10-second time penalty for the contact with Ocon. He struggled against Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, which most notably manifested in the infamous "Fernando is faster than you" radio message in Germany in 2010.
They were treated to a world champion's battling display, as he finished just eight-tenths of a second behind third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
"Valtteri had a solid race".
"He's got quite a good lead now so we need some miracles in Abu Dhabi". It was early doors, for one. "So, we probably haven't seen the real race".