Verstappen continued to dominate the race from the front as he had during his first stint, with Hamilton the only other driver on the track able to match his pace to any extent.
However, the drama really began when Valtteri Bottas suffered a mechanical retirement while chasing down Charles Leclerc on lap 52 of 71 around the 15-turn, 2.677-mile (4.308-kilometer) Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace road course in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which triggered a safety car, a series of pit stops and a bunching of the field.
What followed was a beautiful overtake by Leclerc on his teammate into turn one that saw him move up into fourth place, after starting 14th on the grid.
Vettel had started second, but was overtaken by Hamilton on the first lap for the second time in two races before looking generally slower than both Verstappen and Hamilton for much of the race.
With such a turnaround in fortunes in mind, Vettel looked to return the favor instantly with a DRS move down the first straight, but with Leclerc moving across for the breaking zone and Vettel perhaps going in too hot, the two drivers collided and both suffered race-ending punctures.
Time and again this season his drivers have shown an unwillingness to respect one another and the team.
Regardless of whose fault it was on this occasion, the argument for Ferrari installing a clear number one is becoming increasingly compelling.
It was a model that worked to great effect for Ferrari in the Michael Schumacher era of dominance, but with neither driver clearly ahead of the other, it will make for a tough decision on the part of Binotto.
Beyond the Ferrari pit wall, the race continued with the safety car out once again.
As it happened, Hamilton made it around just Gasly and with just over one lap to go, he spun Albon after attempting a risky overtake, sending Albon to the back and allowing Gasly to move into second.
Gasly just about held on to second ahead of Hamilton, with the Mercedes and Toro Rosso stuck in a drag race across the finish line.
For Sainz and Gasly, this result represents a fantastic achievement and a moment of redemption for two drivers who have fought through varying levels of difficulty over the past two seasons.
Red Bull have not been able to provide Verstappen with a car that can compete with Mercedes, but with cars of a similar speed, the two could end up battling for wins every race weekend.
Finally, this was a great advert for Formula 1 and gave an exciting glimpse into what the series would like look if drivers from any team could realistically challenge for podiums.