Valtteri Bottas has described the fortunate timing of the Virtual Safety Car period as “a miracle” for Mercedes which helped his team leapfrog Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to secure a 1-2 at the Russian Grand Prix.

When Sebastian Vettel’s engine gave up midway through the race at the Sochi Autodrom it triggered a Virtual Safety Car period within the pit stop window of both Mercedes drivers.

With the German manufacturer able to double stack both drivers without losing any time in the pits, Hamilton duly grabbed the lead with Bottas in third place behind Leclerc before another Safety Car period shortly afterwards, triggered by a crash by George Russell, which saw Ferrari pit the Monegasque driver for fresh soft tyres.

But with Bottas able to defend his promoted second place against the Ferrari driver it secured Mercedes a surprise 1-2 result which delighted the Finn.

“I think the team did the right things today. Already the decision from yesterday to start on the Mediums, allowing us to go long in the first stint and when you go long in the first stint you eventually start to go forward,” Bottas sad. “Of course, the timing of the Safety Car today came like a miracle, so that was good.

“I was trying to balance out, in the first few laps, to push hard enough to keep Charles behind and, at the same time, keep a little bit of margin to Lewis, because when you follow very close behind you obviously slide and destroy the tyres easily.

“I think the few seconds’ gap I had during most of the second stint was ideal, as I could get a bit of a tow effect on the straights and not too much sliding in the corners.

“It was pretty ideal, but I have to say Lewis was very quick today, especially in the first stint. I don’t know why but I didn’t have the pace to match him. The second stint was a lot better.”

Bottas has slipped to 73 points behind Hamilton in the Formula 1 world drivers’ standings, while Mercedes has taken a mighty 162-point lead in the F1 world constructors’ championship over Ferrari.

 

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