Team orders weren’t a factor among the Mercedes camp at the end of Sunday’s Formula One Russian Grand Prix, with teammate Lewis Hamilton nearly half a minute back from leader Valtteri Bottas in fourth. But Bottas had a closing Sebastian Vettel to worry about, squeezing through to an intense first victory.
Just four races into his one-year contract with the Mercedes F1 team following 2016 champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement from F1, Bottas got that first-career win ahead of a rapidly closing Vettel at Sochi Autodrom. Hovering around a second back throughout the final laps, pole-sitter Vettel continued to eat away at Bottas’ lead and was well under a second behind him come the final lap.
But Bottas got a slight relief when the two hit lapped traffic on that final lap, as Vettel got caught up behind the driver who may never retire, Felipe Massa, and lost a lot of the ground he made up. Bottas said over the radio that it took him 81 races to get his first victory—which, of course, was with Mercedes—and said it was “worth the wait.”
Even with the holdup in traffic, Bottas won by just .617 seconds over Vettel. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, crossed the line exactly 11 seconds back to finish out the podium.
Hamilton crossed fourth, 36 seconds back, to finish off of the podium for the first time in what feels like forever. It’s actually only been since October, when Hamilton finished 18th after an engine failure from the lead at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Russian Grand Prix finish knocked Hamilton well into second place in the points standings, with 73 points to Vettel’s 86. Bottas sits in third with 63 points, now 14 ahead of fourth-place Raikkonen.
The best part of it all, for Bottas? It sounded like the team remembered his name this time around. Either that, or the broadcast team did a great job of cutting “Congratulations, Nic—Valtteri!” out of the radio transmission.