“And getting that first win, it definitely gives me confidence that I can do it even though I’ve always known I had the ability”.
Bottas became Finland’s fifth Formula One race victor following Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen, who was the last from the Nordic country to triumph, at the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix. But the Ferrari driver was able to keep the Mercedes driver at bay. Mercedes’ other driver, Lewis Hamilton, started the race in fourth but couldn’t follow his teammate through the red wall.
Hamilton and former team-mate Nico Rosberg had a fractious relationship during their four years together at Mercedes, with the last three of those spent engaged in a private duel for the title.
From there Bottas took charge, but Hamilton, in the sister Mercedes, was having a race to forget. The German driver had clocked the fastest time during Q3 on Saturday, and with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen claiming second spot on the grid, it was Ferrari’s first front row lock out since the French GP in 2008. Räikkönen showed his surprise to see the Finn before him ( video ). Raikkonen took third, 10.3 seconds further back.
“It’s going to take a while [to sink in]”, Bottas said. “They are a strong team, they know how to build a quick auto so I expect it’s a question of when rather than if”.
“Our start was probably a match with Valtteri”, said Vettel who started on pole.
“There’s a lot of rumours around”, said Vettel.
“It doesn’t matter, this is the man of the race, big congrats to Valtteri, it’s his day”. Bottas is in third with 63 points. It was a lonely race for Hamilton, who had large gaps with Raikkonen ahead and Max Verstappen behind.
“Why is my auto overheating?” he asked at one point. “We’re out of the race now”, Hamilton told his team on lap 16.
He said: “The relationship between the two of them is very much intact”. He was seen struggling with his auto throughout the race.
For Bottas, he arrived at the fourth round of the championship facing question marks over his position at Mercedes after he was ordered out of Hamilton’s way in Bahrain. “I have to say that I’m not normally that emotional, but hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me, so it felt good”.
Mercedes have a one point lead in the constructors’ championship while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with two wins and two second places, is 13 clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completed the top 10 drivers chart at the Sochi Auto Drome in Russian Federation.
Nearly immediately, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Haas collided with the Renault of Briton Jolyon Palmer at Turn Two, the cars crashing heavily to trigger a red-flagged halt and a Safety Car intervention. While Vettel eventually pitted at the end of Lap 34, Bottas was still out in front. Hamilton complained of overheating with his W08 in the first half of the race and was unable to catch up with Kimi Raikkonen, staying in fourth for the entirety of the 53 lap race.