Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Bottas speeds to first F1 win

Published:Monday | May 1, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland receives the trophy from Russia's president Vladimir Putin for his victory at the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the 'Sochi Autodrom' circuit, in Sochi, Russia, yesterday. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

SOCHI, Russia (AP):

Valtteri Bottas fended off hard-charging Sebastian Vettel and outshone Lewis Hamilton to claim his first Formula One win on Sunday in the Russian Grand Prix.

As Mercedes responded to Ferrari's strong early-season pace, it was Bottas, often viewed as the number two driver of the team, who delivered a calm, precise win when his more illustrious teammate Hamilton struggled in the Sochi heat.

Bottas started third but beat second-placed Kimi Raikkonen off the start and slipstreamed past Vettel's Ferrari to lead at the end of the first straight.

The Finn looked on course for a straightforward win until a rare slip saw him damage a tire. That helped Vettel to close in, but Bottas held on to cross the line 0.6 seconds ahead of the Ferrari. Raikkonen took third, 10.3 seconds further back.

"Took quite a while, more than 80 races," said Bottas, who had his debut with Williams in 2013. "Worth the wait."

The 27-year-old Finn joined Mercedes after last year's champion, Nico Rosberg, surprisingly announced his retirement.

GREAT OPPORTUNITY

"There was this strange opportunity that happened in the winter that made this possible," Bottas said. "You never know in life what's going to happen and it was a great opportunity."

Vettel, who had started on pole, hunted Bottas down in the latter part of the race. However, he was left fuming after his hopes of passing him on the last lap were dashed by having to lap the Williams of Felipe Massa. "What was that?" Vettel asked over the team radio in frustration that Massa hadn't moved out of his way swiftly enough, though the German was in conciliatory mood afterward.

"It doesn't matter," Vettel said of the incident with Massa. "This is the man of the race today, big congrats to Valtteri."

Vettel's second place meant the German extended his standings lead to 13 points over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who trailed in fourth after suffering overheating trouble. Bottas is third, 10 points further back.