Lewis Hamilton took his first win at Suzuka this weekend to equal the number of race wins recorded by his idol, Ayrton Senna.
Hamilton's win saw the Mercedes team bounce back from the disappointment of Singapore to take an easy 1-2. Team mate Nico Rosberg started from pole but lost it to a fast-starting Hamilton, who muscled by the pole-sitter into turn one and was never headed.
Meanwhile Australian Daniel Ricciardo's good form in practice and qualifying was swiftly ended by Massa into turn one, a puncture putting him a lap down and out of contention.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
FP1 and FP2 saw less than the usual amount of running with the track under plenty of water. Some drivers tried their luck with different tyres, giving the crowd a few opportunities to gasp at some impressive car control.
Red Bull brought some of their Singapore form with them, with Kvyat ending FP2 ahead of the Mercedes of Rosberg by the tiniest of margins, his teammate not far behind them. The Ferraris lurked in fifth and sixth while the two Toro Rossos threatened.
FP3 was dry and the Mercedes pair resumed the top two slots, Rosberg again slightly ahead of Ricciardo, the Williams pair bouncing into contention ahead of a mix of Ferraris and Toro Rossos as well as Grosjean's Lotus.
Qualifying ended with an enormous crash for Daniil Kvyat - after heading out of the Degner curves, he inexplicably dropped both left-hand tyres into the wet grass, spearing into the armco and rolling his car before landing right-way up, minus two tyres.
He was unharmed and walked away.
The crash ruined Hamilton's chances of beating Rosberg to pole and also ended Ricciardo's challenge, the Australian ending up seventh ahead of Grosjean and behind Raikkonen. The Williams of Bottas would start behind Hamilton and alongside Vettel.
McLaren had a terrible time, making a mess of Button's Q1 and Alonso promoted to twelfth because of Hulkenberg's penalty and Verstappen's car letting him down in Q1 after posting a time to get him into Q2.
The arrival of sunshine for race day was probably better news for Williams than Red Bull given their relative performances between wet and dry sessions.
Kvyat's car was back in one piece for race start and he would leave from pitlane. Max Verstappen was bumped down the order for leaving his car in gear after it failed in qualifying.
Rosberg's pre-race didn't go swimmingly - he reported a nasty headache with back and neck soreness, he stayed away from pesky interviewers.
Hamilton got a good start and forced Rosberg wide through turn one, the German falling back to fourth. Depending on who he was talking to, he later said that it was fair play or he had to avoid an accident. Either way, it was race-defining for them both.
Ricciardo came together with Felipe Massa, both of them scoring a puncture. Massa came across to cover the Red Bull driver but got it wrong, ruining both races.
Vettel was the big winner, getting past both Rosberg and Bottas while Verstappen jumped to thirteenth before being re-passed by Nasr. Perez fired off into the gravel at turn one after bumping into Carlos Sainz while Hulkenberg recovered to eighth from his penalty.
Hamilton romped away into a big lead, his team telling him he needed a gap of ten seconds.
Meanwhile, the McLarens suffered being passed by the Toro Rossos and Sauber's, the McLaren well down on power down Suzuka's main straight. Alonso thought it might be a good idea to tell the world via his pit-to-car radio that the situation was embarrassing.
Kvyat pitted on lap nine, the first driver with a presumably scheduled stop. Nasr and Verstappen had a long and absorbing battle - the Toro Rosso had the superior chassis but the Ferrari power of the Sauber kept him at bay. Verstappen's That pair caught the leading Sauber of Ericsson who had his second spin in two days at Spoon corner.
As Bottas pitted on lap 12, Rosberg was released by his pitwall to go hard and attempt to get by the Williams. Vettel pitted on lap 14 for hard compound tyres - he came out still ahead of Bottas, but with a reduced margin.
Rosberg pitted at the end of lap 15 for hard compound tyres but his efforts to jump Bottas were in vain, the Finn still ahead after an unusually aggressive call from Williams. Hamilton pitted a lap later for another set of medium tyres.
Rosberg's choice of hard tyres seeimingly gave him the edge into the chicane after 130R, Rosberg chucking his Mercedes down the inside of Bottas who was late to react and had to watch the works car drive away.
Kvyat was stuck between Alonso and a rampant Verstappen. The young Dutchman tried a sketchy move around 130R, thinking better of it as he skated down the ripple strip.
Verstappen and Alonso played cat and mouse for a number of laps, the McLaren driver jealously guarding tenth place.
The Toro Rosso driver finally got by on lap 26, with a good slipstream down the main straight and then held the line into turn one. Alonso responded by shouting, "GP2 engine!" over team radio.
Carlos Sainz came into the pits on lap 28 with a broken front wing. The team changed his tyres but realised he had broken his front wing after cleaning up a plastic post at the pit entry.
Rosberg pitted on lap 30 at the same time as Bottas. He took on hard tyres and Bottas did the same, but lost out to Kimi Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado. Bottas shouldered past the Lotus in short order and took off after the Ferrari.
Vettel arrived in the pits the following lap in a cloud of tyre smoke and after just 2.4 seconds stationary was on his way. It was a close run thing on the way out, but Rosberg swept past into second. Hamilton pitted from first and stayed there, moving to hard tyres.
Sainz and Perez also got involved in a lengthy battle, for ninth and tenth. Perez pitted on lap 37, letting Sainz go to try and jump him at his own stop.
At the front, Hamilton was way ahead but Vettel was launching regular fast laps to try and get within DRS, only for Rosberg to respond.
Perez launched his own attack around the outside of Marcus Ericsson's Sauber, the Force India unable to stick with the Swiss car all the way to the exit.
Will Stevens provided the heart-stopper of the race - coming through 130R, his Manor Marussia snapped into a huge tank-slapper, nearly wiping out teammate Rossi in the process.
Rosberg and Vettel were having to make their way through this battle, helping Vettel to close again. Verstappen passed Sainz into the chicane, but it looked planned.
Kvyat didn't seem too worried about his fading brakes, the Russian regularly looking like he might get by Perez. The battle pack also had Ricciardo join in the last few laps, with twelfth to sixteenth all running together.
Perez finally made a move stick through Spoon corner on lap 49, the Force India driving away.
Poor Ericsson then lost his spot to Kvyat who slipped through behind Raikkonen, who had the blue flag advantage. The other Sauber of Nasr retired on lap 51.
Hamilton took the victory that brought him level with Ayrton Senna after a faultless drive that began with that move through turn one.
Daniel Ricciardo finished fifteenth and a lap down.
"At the start, the best line for me was straight down the middle. I saw the gap between Kimi and Felipe and I knew it was close, but I thought they would make a bit of room.
I haven't seen the footage and don't want to put the blame on anyone so we'll call it a racing incident for now.
It's a shame for the team, I think we could have gained some positions off the line and then the race would have been completely different.
But we had the puncture, and that damaged the floor so we lost some downforce. On a positive note, even with the damaged floor, the car was handling well."
Formula 1 returns in two weeks for the Russian Grand Prix.
MORE: Formula One News