Sebastian Vettel, who reignited the multi-21 drama in a Thursday press briefing, managed fourth after a poor qualifying and a dramatic late charge.
Mark Webber had a horror weekend with Red Bull committing two grave errors and Webber himself clashing with Vergne in the race.
By contrast, Daniel Ricciardo had a great weekend, qualifying seventh and holding that position to the end.
Practice and Qualifying
The Red Bull rumble thundered on, a two weekend break doing little to break the tension, with Vettel giving a new version of his side of the story in a Thursday briefing.
The aggro almost overshadowed the performance of Mercedes and Ferrari, Massa in particular, during the Friday sessions.
Qualifying was a quiet affair, with very little in the way of action in all three sessions as drivers saved tyres. Webber's car was under-fuelled due to faulty equipment, leaving the Australian stranded and relegating him to dead last.
Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole, with Kimi Raikkonen beside him. Alonso followed up, split from Massa by Rosberg. Vettel and Hulkenberg didn't set a time so they could both save tyres and start on their choice.
If qualifying was dull, the race certainly wasn't.
Kimi Raikkonen had a terrible start, completely destroyed by wheelspin as the Ferraris launched into second and third behind Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo maintained seventh, ahead of Button and Vettel.
The end of the first lap saw Webber pull in to discard the far less-favoured soft compound, ensuring he had a race full of the better tyres.
Up front Hamilton was eking out a lead, but didn't get to the one-second gap required to avoid the cars behind getting in the DRS zone.
The first seven cars were covered by five seconds and everyone one of them but Hamilton had the DRS advantage, the Ferraris suddenly leaping on to Hamilton's gearbox.
On lap four Nico Hulkenberg took Vettel and then just ahead, Lewis Hamilton lost his place to both Ferraris and was immediately under attack from Raikkonen.
Rosberg struggled too, losing his place first to Grosjean and then to Vettel.
The two Mercedes pitted together at the end of lap 5, the team pulling a blinder to release Hamilton and service Rosberg without having to queue.
The Force India of Sutil lost its rear wing after Sauber rookie Gutierrez piled into the back of him at the hairpin.
The Force India almost caught fire in the pits as the team struggled with what to do, but it was quickly extinguished. Both races were over, Gutierrez copped a five place grid penalty for Bahrain.
Alonso pitted on lap seven, as did Raikkonen who came out just in front of Mark Webber who had made it through to fourteenth.
All of this action left the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg out in front, with a yet-to-stop Vettel behind.
Alonso and Hamilton took to the field with gusto, carving their way past Bottas and Vergne, with Alonso in the effective lead of the race before the field completed all of the pit stops.
Up front, Hulkenberg was pulling away from Vettel and keeping the Red Bull driver out of the DRS zone. Alonso meanwhile caught and passed di Resta, who was yet to stop, such was the Ferrari's excellent race pace.
The Spaniard dispatched Perez's McLaren on lap 14 and set off after Jenson Button, quickly reeling him in.
Vettel pitted at the same time as Hullkenberg at the end of lap 15. Vettel literally passed the Sauber driver in the pits, Nico's crew having dropped a wheel nut.
Vettel came out just behind Webber but the chance to see them "race" was destroyed along with Webber's front wing, when he and Vergne came together.
"He was really, really wide and looking like he opened the corner and was giving me the line. But we got to the apex and he took it," Webber said.
"It's disappointing. He was entitled to do that, but if he'd just gone around the outside we would've both survived."
Webber returned to the pits, but his race was finished after his left rear wheel was not attached properly. He was later given a three-place grid penalty (to be served in Bahrain) for hitting Vergne. Worse, compounding a weekend to forget, his team was fined €5000 for an unsafe release.
Out on track, Raikkonen nearly did the same, running into the back of Sergio Perez, grinding off the tip of the Lotus' nose after an wild move into turn five.
By lap 20, Button was in the lead but had a rampaging Alonso right behind him. Both were due for a stop and Alonso, on the fresher tyres got by at turn one. This left Hamilton and Raikkonen battling for third while last year's winner, Rosberg, pitted twice in the space of two laps and then retired on lap 23.
Raikkonen and Hamilton pitted together, the still-wounded Lotus very nearly making it out in front of the Mercedes in the pit lane.
Alonso pitted on lap 24, with Button coming in behind, levelling the tyre performance of the two combatants. This released Vettel into the lead, three seconds ahead of Hulkenberg and just seven seconds ahead of Alonso.
Hamilton found himself behind Jenson Button, who was under investigation for using DRS under yellow flags, the FIA still unable to remotely deactivate the devices. Button asked if he needed to fight his former teammate, and he was told yes, he must.
It wasn't long before the Mercedes fired past, though, the Silver Arrow considerably faster than Button's McLaren.
Alonso passed Hulkenberg on lap 27 and he set off after leader Vettel who was soon to stop. Alonso took the lead on lap 29, with a move around the outside.
Sauber tried something different with Nico Hulkenberg, switching him to the soft compound for a truncated middle stint. He spent barely ten laps on the soft, pitting with Massa on lap 35, eventually finishing tenth.
As Raikkonen passed Button out on track, Vettel pitted for a set of mediums and came out behind Massa, who was eighth. Vettel soon passed the Ferrari and then di Resta.
Raikkonen pitted a lap later to take on more medium tyres and leave the damaged nose in place, preferring to stick with a simple configuration change.
Hamilton's rapidly deteriorating tyres brought him in on lap 37 from sixth. The Mercedes was stationary for 2.9 seconds but it wasn't enough to keep him ahead of Raikkonen.
Alonso was twenty seconds ahead of Vettel when he was called in for his final stop on lap 40. Vettel entered the pit straight and made turn one before the Ferrari, but he had to stop one more time whereas Alonso had the tyres to take him to the finish.
Within two laps, Alonso was past Vettel, whose tyres were in very bad shape.
Hamilton and Raikkonen were battling hard, the Mercedes harassing the Lotus for fourth place, which would become second when Vettel and Button pitted.
Button finally pitted for just the second time at the end of lap 49 for soft tyres. He came out behind Massa and promptly passed him.
The real battle for second was raging as Raikkonen and Hamilton, two of the sport's more combative drivers, took the battle to each other, closely matching lap times.
Vettel pitted at the end of lap 51, dropping him to fourth. Once back on the track, he set a series of super-fast laps to whittle the gap down to five seconds from Hamilton with two laps to go.
The Red Bull was closing at a rate of three seconds per lap and was on a charge for that podium place.
Hamilton was bottled up behind an uncoperative Caterham and Vettel almost took the Englishman out with a late braking maenouvre that sent him wide, scuppering his chances.
Alonso took the flag for the first time this season in style with a fantastic drive from the second row and faultless Ferrari strategy. He finished five places ahead of teammate Massa.
Kimi Raikkonen came home third with Hamilton completing the podium, Vettel just two-tenths of a second behind the improving Mercedes.
Daniel Ricciardo brought the Toro Rosso home in seventh with a classy drive, his confidence growing. Early pretender Hulkenberg faded to tenth while Button managed an impressive fifth.
The results leave Vettel with a four-point lead over Raikkonen in the championship, with a hard-charging Alonso vaulting into third.
Formula 1 returns next week for the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir.
2013 Chinese F1 GP Results
- Alonso - Ferrari 1h36:26.945
- Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault +10.100s
- Hamilton - Mercedes +12.300s
- Vettel - Red Bull-Renault +12.500s
- Button - McLaren-Mercedes +35.200s
- Massa - Ferrari +40.800s
- Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +42.600s
- Di Resta - Force India-Mercedes +51.000s
- Grosjean - Lotus-Renault +53.400s
- Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari +56.500s
- Perez - McLaren-Mercedes +1m03.800s
- Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1m12.600s
- Maldonado - Williams-Renault +1m33.800s
- Bottas - Williams-Renault +1m35.400s
- Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- Pic - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- van der Garde - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1m36.808s
- Rosberg - Mercedes
- Webber - Red Bull-Renault
- Sutil - Force India-Mercedes
- Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari