Valtteri Bottas has described the timing of the Safety Car at the Russian GP as a “miracle” for Mercedes.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed when Sebastian Vettel suffered an MGU-K failure and was forced to pull up at Turn 15.
Mercedes, who ran the medium tyres at the start for a longer first stint, were able to pit Lewis Hamilton, bringing him back out ahead of Charles Leclerc, while Ferrari pitted their man again under the full Safety Car that soon followed after George Russell crashed, making it a Mercedes one-two as Bottas took over P2.
Without the VSC or full Safety Car Leclerc would have been in a great position to claim victory, so it’s no surprise that Bottas felt a debt of gratitude to the “miracle” SC as team-mate Hamilton extended Mercedes’ 100% winning record at the Sochi Autodrom.
“For sure they had a strong car, good pace and as we’ve seen this year they’ve been extremely quick on the straights,” Bottas was quoted by Motorsportweek.com.
“I knew that if they’d get close enough, especially in Sector Three, they would be a big threat going into Turn Two. So I just had to try to keep it together, minimise the mistakes.
“The car felt pretty decent, with the Soft tyre in the corners, so I tried to maximize everything I could in the corners, trying to get a good Sector 3 and a good exit out of the last corner.
“That way I could keep the position, but to be in that position, beforehand, I think the team did the right things.
“Already the decision 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.
“Of course, the timing of the Safety Car came like a miracle, so that was good.”
Bottas did a fine job to keep Leclerc behind in the closing stages of the race, allowing Hamilton to sail away to victory, and the Finn revealed that providing that protection was his sole focus.
“I think at the point, we were on the similar tyre with Lewis, with the same car, so for me it was definitively the priority to keep Charles behind,” he confirmed.
“I tried at the beginning, to see if I had any chance with the re-start and the first lap, but there was no way.
“So, 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.”