Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles has praised Valtteri Bottas for his perfect defence against Charles Leclerc at the Russian GP.
After Lewis Hamilton had used the Virtual Safety Car to pit and retain his lead over Leclerc, Ferrari pitted the Monegasque driver under the full Safety Car, putting him P3 behind Bottas and on fresher tyres.
But, despite the Scuderia’s superior straight-line speed and younger tyres, Leclerc was unable to clear Bottas as Hamilton went on to take the win, heading a one-two finish for the Silver Arrows.
Bottas didn’t put a foot wrong despite the heavy pressure from behind, and Vowles was keen to pay tribute to the Finn’s “perfect” performance.
“After Leclerc stopped and fitted that soft tyre, now it’s Mercedes, Mercedes, Leclerc on the soft tyre, at the re-start it was clear we were going to be in a certain amount of pressure and trouble from Ferrari,” he said in Mercedes’ Pure PitWall debrief.
“They are extremely quick in a straight line and especially in the run down to Turn 2, and with the DRS that opens several laps after the Safety Car, we thought it would be incredibly difficult to hold on to that position until the end of the race.
“Valtteri didn’t make a single mistake. He didn’t lock a brake going into Turn 2, he defended in every corner as he needed to.
“He was continuously going up and down on the energy systems in order to maximise his speed down into Turn 2 and he did it perfectly.
“Leclerc backed off several times just to cool the tyres down and have another opportunity, build his battery back up and attack again, and very time he did, Valtteri responded with the same switches on his side, dog fighting his way to the end of the race and did a perfect job.”