Valtteri Bottas repaid the faith of Mercedes by winning on only his fourth start with the team in Russia, having outpaced team mate Lewis Hamilton all weekend.
It was also the 81st F1 career start for the Finn, who logged a strong of podiums over his stint with Williams, but never made the top step. He admitted that the significance of the win won’t sink in immediately.
“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “I have to say, normally I’m not that emotional but hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me – felt good. But it is a little bit surreal: first win, and hopefully first of many. It was definitely one of my best races, personally, ever. It’s a good feeling and just, yeah, happy.
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“It took quite a while, more than 80 races for me, but definitely worth the wait, worth the learning curve. This strange opportunity came to me in the winter to join this team and they made it possible today, so I really want to thank to the team, without them it wouldn’t be possible, so feels amazing.”
He said the first win would inevitably be a boost.
“I think a lot. I’ve always know I could do good results if everything goes right. I always trust in my ability but it’s nice to get confirmation that the results are possible, that anything is possible, so definitely good to continue from here.”
He admitted that the biggest challenge he faced was in the closing stages, when he was being chased down by Sebastian Vettel while trying not to lose time in traffic.
“Just the main thing was with the lapped cars and trying to get past those and with these new cars we definitely lose more downforce, already two seconds, three seconds behind, so it was tricky to get close and pass them without losing time. That was the main thing at the end and I wasn’t quite happy for a few occasions.
“I also had one lock-up, maybe 10 or 15 laps to go, which hurt a little bit the pace. Other than that it was OK. I did ask for a bit more radio silence from the guys on the pit wall, just for me to get on it and focus for it and feel a bit more like home. Quite nice and quiet and that helped.”