THE FIRST WIN
Former world champion Lauda applauds Bottas for his maiden victory at Sochi
SOCHI the podium but the man he replaced in January, retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, took his first victory in his 111th grand prix start after also starting out at Williams.
Fellow-Finn Mika Hakkinen, world champion in 1998 and 1999 with McLaren, took 96 races.
Only last week, reporters were asking Bottas about having to accept so-called ‘team orders’ and help triple champion teammate Lewis Hamilton in the title battle against Vettel but it looks different already.
Bottas is now just 10 points adrift of Hamilton and, having started the season as an emergency stopgap, can now quite legitimately see himself in the championship mix.
That situation poses another headache for Hamilton but is one that Mercedes are relaxed about having to manage. They do not expect the relationship to turn sour as it did between the Briton and Rosberg.
“He (Bottas) took up that risky move to be Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, to take over the reigning world champion’s car, and I think that he has done a very good job,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“The relationship between the two is very intact, Lewis was one of the first to congratulate Valtteri on his first race victory and I think that shows the respect that they have towards each other.
“Nevertheless, both of them are fierce competitors and they will want to win races and fight for a championship.
“But I don’t think it will affect the relationship and the dynamics within the team like it did in the last years between Nico and Lewis.” Reuters
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates with the team’s crew after winning the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.