Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo won a sensational Chinese Grand Prix in thrilling style on Sunday when he stormed through the field from sixth place after taking on fresh tyres under a safety vehicle. Verstappen finished fourth on the road but after his penalty was applied he dropped to fifth in the final standings.
While all this was going on, Ricciardo was relentlessly hunting down Bottas, and he clinically passed the Mercedes to take the lead on lap 45. Mercedes took a punt on pitting him first for medium tyres and the decision proved to be pivotal for his race.
Raikkonen was still on track and leading the race at that point, albeit without making a stop.
"Obviously it was really close and that was literally as quick as we could have got out".
With Ricciardo now untouchable, Raikkonen began to pressure Bottas for second, but the younger Finn held on.
Red Bull pulled both their cars into the pits, "double-stacking" them and bolting a set of fresh soft tyres on each.
The collision that saw the safety vehicle deployed was deemed to be Pierre Gasly's fault, and he was given a ten-second penalty.
Ricciardo is out of contract this year, and Red Bull is monitoring sister team Toro Rosso's progress with Honda engines.
As the drivers reeled off the closing laps with Ricciardo looking serene at the front, the main on-track interest was the battle for second place, with Bottas closely followed by Raikkonen and Verstappen. "Getting that engine dressed and onto the vehicle, it's just Herculean".
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In the constructors' stakes, Mercedes now have a one-point advantage over Ferrari, 85 to 84, with Red Bull moving into a clear third place on 55.
He went on to qualify a place behind teammate Max Verstappen in sixth. Hamilton, who has been off colour all weekend, salvaged fifth.
There will be a post-mortem at Ferrari as to how they let that happen, given Vettel was leading by more than three seconds before Bottas' stop on lap 19 on 56, with Vettel stopping a lap later. The Red Bull came from so far back that the four-time world champion didn't even try to defend and with it Ricciardo started his late charge for victory.
Once again, the 20-year-old was way too over-optimistic as he lunged to the inside of the Ferrari at Turn 14, only to make contact when Vettel turned in to take the corner.
It all seemed a very unlikely eventuality after the first few laps which were decidedly soporific by comparison.
The advantage of fresh tyres allowed Verstappen and Ricciardo to scythe through the field.
The Red Bull man was unsurprisingly handed a ten-second penalty but that was of absolutely no concern to team-mate Ricciardo as he found an impossible gap to take Bottas and the race lead.
"Sometimes you've just got to lick the stamp and send it", Ricciardo said of the move.
Lap 53: Raikkonen catches Bottas with Verstappen just behind. Ricciardo, meanwhile, is fourth and 17 points off Vettel despite a DNF at the second round in Bahrain.