Valtteri Bottas says he “understands” Mercedes’ decision to instruct him to give up the lead of the Russian Grand Prix to Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Having beaten Hamilton to pole position, Bottas comfortably led the opening stint and looked on course to claim his first victory of the season, until Mercedes used enforced team orders and told the Finn to concede his position at mid-distance.

Mercedes explained the call was made to ensure Hamilton, struggling with blisters on his rear tyres, would be safe from any attack Vettel tried to mount, while victory enabled the Briton to edge closer to a fifth world championship title by extending his advantage to 50 points over the Ferrari driver.

COTA #2 - Tremendous Turn 1

“Honestly I already understand the situation,” Bottas said. “If you put yourself in the team leader’s shoes, for them it doesn’t matter if it’s me or Lewis winning as long as it’s a 1-2 and we get the maximum points.

“For the end of the year it’s only Lewis fighting for the championship, I’m not so for the team it’s always better that Lewis wins – that’s how it goes.”

Team boss Toto Wolff described using team orders as a “harsh reality”, while Hamilton revealed he had considered handing the lead of the race back to Bottas due to feeling uneasy about the situation.

Bottas insisted he can take comfort from knowing he had the pace to challenge for the win on merit, after admitting his confidence had previously taken a knock amid a season that has featured a number of unfortunate races.

“It’s not ideal for me, as an athlete or as a person,” he added. “The only thing that matters for me now, to keep me going to the end of the year is I know that for today, I was supposed to win. I could have won the race on equal terms.

“I know from this weekend I was supposed to win. I know myself I’m the winner of this weekend. I don’t have the trophy but that doesn’t matter, that’s how it is and I move on.”