Persistent drizzle kept the track wet throughout, but the inclement weather couldn’t deter Valtteri Bottas from converting his 18th career pole into his first victory in more than a year.
The Finn got the perfect start to keep Verstappen in second place, and his Mercedes car was fast enough to keep the Dutchman at arm’s length throughout.
An emphatic flourish of fastest laps late in the race grew his advantage to 14.5 seconds at the flag in what Bottas described as one of his best-ever wins.
“It feels good,” he said. “I think from my side I have to say probably one of the best races I’ve ever had.
“The car has been very good in every condition, and I’ve had really good confidence with it and I could control it.”
Verstappen has been dealing with a Red Bull Racing car a step behind the Mercedes all weekend, and the Dutchman joked that he had been bored in a race of tyre management.
“We just had to manage the tyres the whole race, so we couldn’t push,” he said. “It just seemed like Valtteri had a bit more pace.
“I’m of course happy to finish second because in these conditions it’s also easy to get it wrong.”
But second was enough to retake the lead of the drivers standings with a six-point lead over title rival Lewis Hamilton, who was one of the drives who got it wrong in the wet.
Hamilton ended his race fuming with the Mercedes strategist over team radio for a late pit stop that dropped him off the podium and down to fifth, shipping precious points to his championship foe.
The Briton had been trying to recover from a 10-place grid penalty for an engine component change for reliability concerns, but his progress early in the race was slow.
He picked up a couple of place son the first lap, but eight laps bottled behind Yuki Tsunoda dropped him to almost 20 seconds off the lead battle, and even when he finally broke the Japanese driver’s defence his pace was only modestly improved.
But the tension came at half-distance, when it became clear that track conditions weren’t going to improve enough for dry tyres. Most of the field stopped for fresh rubber, but Hamilton convinced his team to try to make it to the finish on just a single set.
His pit wall entertained the idea, an in the process the Briton rose to third behind Bottas and Verstappen as the drivers around him made their stops. But the team wasn’t convinced the tyres would make the distance, and the Briton’s pace began to drop dramatically with 10 laps to go, he was ordered in for fresh rubber to prevent a failure.
Hamilton agreed, but he didn’t realise he was set to lose two places in the process, and he was furious to learn he had slipped to fifth behind Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc and with Pierre Gasly hot on his gearbox.
The new wet-weather tyres refused to cooperate on the drying track, inflaming Hamilton’s frustration as he coaxed the rubber up to temperature, eventually taking the flag more than 40 seconds behind his teammate.
His loss was Perez’s gain, the Mexican claiming just his third podium of the year and Red Bull Racing’s second double podium of the season.
“It was quite an intense race in the first stint,” he said, recalling battles with Hamilton and Leclerc. “It was just one of those races of having to be patient, pushing at the right times.”
Charles Leclerc slotted into fourth, the Monegasque similarly considering not making a stop before being overruled by the Ferrari strategists.
Pierre Gasly was sixth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and a superb Carlos Sainz, who recovered from 19th to finish eighth for Ferrari, shrinking the Italian team’s deficit to McLaren for third in the constructors standings to just seven and a half points.
Lance Stroll finished ninth, and Esteban Ocon took the final point of the race in 10th without making a pit stop.