Valtteri Bottas is on cloud nine after unexpectedly taking the win at the Russian Grand Prix, and in doing so achieved his first ever win in Formula 1.
Despite starting third, the highest placed Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team car and behind an all Scuderia Ferrari front row, the Finn managed to out-race Sebastian Vettel to the first braking zone at turn two and continued to out-perform the German throughout the first stint.
And although Finn’s are well-known for their cool, calm and collected exterior, Bottas had to admit that hearing his national anthem caught him off guard.
“It’s going to take a while to sink in,” he said. “Normally I’m not that emotional but hearing the Finnish national anthem was very special for me.
“It’s all a bit surreal, the first win and hopefully the first of many.”
Vettel didn’t give up hope on catching the Silver Arrow, and after managing a longer than average stint before pitting, he had fresher tyres towards the end to put pressure on Bottas. And pressure him he did.
In what was possibly the only hiccup of his entire race, Bottas suffered a lock-up late on that flat spotted his tyres; the incident was quickly relayed to Vettel by his engineer with a dose of encouragement.
But Bottas kept the Ferrari behind, and found lapping the back markers more troublesome than the resulting tyre wear.
“It was definitely one of my best races ever,” he continued. “The pressure from Sebastian wasn’t too bad; the main issue was with the lapped cars, trying to get past those.
“It was tricky to pass them without losing time. I also had a lockup with about 15 laps to go that hurt the pace, but it was manageable.”
During the final ten or so laps, Bottas took a page out of Lewis Hamilton’s book and asked the team for radio silence. Following his disappointing result in Bahrain, where he started on pole but had to settle for third, he had sensed the win was a reality and was not prepared to let it slip through a momentary distraction.
After 81 races he finally achieved his dream of gaining a Formula 1 win and will now continue the season with a new-found confidence.
“I asked for a bit of radio silence just to get on it and focus,” he added. “I’m sure this victory will give me lots of confidence going forward.
“I knew I could do these results, I always trusted my ability, but this result confirms it.”