Sebastian Vettel has defended Mercedes for its use of team orders during Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, saying it was a “no-brainer” to help Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 title bid by telling Valtteri Bottas to swap positions.

Mercedes gave net race leader Bottas the call to let Hamilton past midway through Sunday’s race in Sochi for fear of the Briton losing a place to Vettel, his closest rival in the championship.

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Hamilton went on to win the race ahead of Bottas, giving him a 50-point lead in the drivers’ championship with five rounds to go this season.

Mercedes came under fire for its tactics after the race, with Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff both admitting they felt discomfort over the call, but Vettel said he understood why the decision was taken.

“I think well done to both of them [Hamilton and Bottas], they played together as a team very well,” Vettel said.

“In their defence, all the questions, I know that you guys [media] loved controversy, and therefore ask some naughty questions to them as individuals.

“I think in the position that they are, it was a no-brainer what they did today, so maybe not all the questions are justified.”

Vettel managed to get the jump on Hamilton for second place through the pit stops, only to be re-passed, and felt Ferrari had to take the positives out of the weekend despite the daunting championship outlook.

“For us, obviously we tried our maximum, I think there was a slim chance to finish ahead of Lewis. We have to be happy with third and settle for that today,” Vettel said.

“I still believe in our chances, yes. It takes one DNF and all of a sudden, things look different - ideally two! Which I’m not wishing to Lewis, but you never know what happens.

“So we need to stay on top of our game which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend. Make sure that from where we are now, we focus on winning the last races.”

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