It was one of the highlights of the 2012 F1 season, both on and off the track, and with a bit of suspense in the air for the next race too. The organizers of the Chinese Grand Prix filled the grandstands with spectators and showed off a first-class prerace song-and-dance spectacle on the starting grid, and then Formula 1 then put on an extraordinary race with a heart-palpitating final 10 laps.
It finished it off with Nico Rosberg's first victory ever, and the first victory for his Mercedes team since it took over the Brawn team two years ago.
Rosberg, 26, is the son of the former Finnish world champion Keke Rosberg, but he grew up in Monaco with German nationality - his mother is German - and has been racing in Formula One since 2006. It was his 111th race.
Jenson Button, who finished the race in second, noted that it had taken him 113 tries to win his first race. Button's teammate at McLaren Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, finished third, placing three Mercedes-powered cars in the top three.
''It's an unbelievable feeling, very, very cool,'' Rosberg said. ''I'm happy and excited. A long time coming for me and for the team.''
''It is amazing to see how quickly we are progressing,'' he added. ''I wasn't expecting to be that fast today.''
Mercedes had been racing under its own name for the last two seasons for the first time since the brand left Formula 1 as a team in 1955. It returned as an engine provider in the 1990s and won four world titles with McLaren.
The only car to drop out of the race was that of the other Mercedes driver, Michael Schumacher, 43, who started in second but had a problem during a pit stop when a mechanic failed to finish tightening a bolt on a wheel. He retired from the race after only 15 of 56 laps.
''I don't have any hard feelings,'' Schumacher said. ''I feel a bit sorry for one of my boys that I guess he feels responsible, but it's part of the game.''
But there was an irony to the fact that it was Rosberg, who had never won a race, and not Schumacher, who has won 91 races and seven world titles, who brought Mercedes its first victory. It showed also - or seemed to show - that Schumacher now has a car that he should be able to win with, and he has no more excuses not to.
The final 10 laps of the race were among the most exciting racing in ages, with several former world champions battling for a spot on the podium.
But none of those distractions was enough to overshadow the cloud hanging over the race and Formula 1 itself. The weekend was dominated by the series's decision to go ahead with its race in Bahrain next weekend despite daily anti-government demonstrations, violence, deaths and injuries, and calls by demonstrators to cancel the event.
Before the race, when a reporter asked Bernie Ecclestone, 81, the Formula 1 promoter, what he thought about the news that a 15-year-old boy was in critical condition in Bahrain after being shot at a funeral Friday, Ecclestone said, ''Nobody has been shot,'' then added, ''What protests?''
The Bahrain authorities canceled the race at the last minute last year because of the same Arab Spring protests and instability, but this year the government is using the race as a way to show that business is back to normal and the country is safe.
Most of the Formula 1 drivers remained silent on the subject throughout the weekend or said they simply had a job to do. Jean Todt, the president of the International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body, came to China and spoke to team directors during the weekend, but would not speak to the media. The association released a statement Friday saying the race would go ahead.
But in Shanghai, Rosberg controlled the race from start to finish. Behind him, the other two spots on the podium were hotly disputed in the final laps.
''I was aware of a bit of that because every lap the name of who was behind me changed, and I wondered what was going on back there,'' Rosberg said.
On Lap 44, the Lotus driver Romain Grosjean dropped from fifth to eighth, went briefly off the track, then touched another car, creating near-chaos. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, one of six world champions racing in the series this year, was in second but nearly 25 seconds behind Rosberg.
Behind Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion; Button, the 2009 world champion; Mark Webber; and Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, were all less than a second from one another.
''What an incredible race; so many of the world champions all in a train fighting each other,'' Hamilton said. ''I can't remember being in a race like that for some time, so maybe we're doing something right.''
Suddenly Raikkonen started dropping back, a problem slowing his car. In the final three laps, Hamilton, Vettel and Webber battled for third place.
Hamilton has finished in third place in all three races this season and leads the championship with 45 points.
In an indication that the drivers might be thinking of something other than the violence in Bahrain, Button said of the race next week that he was looking forward to the hot weather.
''I have struggled - I think everyone has this weekend - with trying to get the tires in an operating window,'' he said of the effect the lower temperatures in China had had on his tires.