Hamilton's rubber soon started to degrade and he fell back toward teammate Rosberg, but as soon as the German passed the Briton, his front wing failed and drooped to the ground, leaving Rosberg driving in a sea of sparks.
The safety car emerged on lap 31 following a spectacular tire failure on the front right wheel of Perez's McLaren, with the tread suddenly shearing off and landing in the middle of the main straight.
The racing had only resumed for a lap when Force India's Adrian Sutil spun into the Red Bull of Mark Webber at the end of the main straight, causing the Australian's car to burst into flames.
With the safety car only having just come in, the field rounded onto the straight at full speed on the next lap only to see a fire marshall's truck trundling down the track toward the fire, acting as a de-facto safety car before the real one could take up the job.
"It looked like a BMW. I think it was a Hyundai or Kia SUV. You want the number plate?" joked Vettel.
In the one lap between the two yellow-flag periods, Raikkonen had got past Grosjean, but the Finn was unable to keep up with Vettel upon resumption, trailing by 1.4 seconds after one lap and consistently losing time from then on.
Grosjean said the two safety-car periods helped Vettel, suggesting that without them, the two Lotus cars would have been able to manage their tires better over a long last stint and challenge the leader.
"It seems that every time there will be a battle with Seb, there's a safety car coming," Grosjean said.
"The last stints would have been pretty epic without the safety car ... it would have been close."