Lewis Hamilton took his eighth victory of the season on Sunday after a pit wall call to team-mate Valtteri Bottas saw the Finn move aside for the Briton at the Sochi Autodrom.
Bottas had started from pole position and was on course for his first victory of the season only for the call to come from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team to move aside to allow Hamilton to assume the lead, giving the British racer seven additional points towards the Drivers’ Championship.
Hamilton now has a fifty-point cushion over Sebastian Vettel but the defending champion admitted he was uncomfortable being gifted the victory in such a manner and felt it was not the way he would ever want to win a Grand Prix.
“Valtteri was an incredible gentleman today,” said Hamilton. “Honestly, it’s the strangest day I can remember having in the sport in my career.
“I remember, we have crossed this situation and discussion before. It’s always felt super uncomfortable, I was like ‘Look, I want to win the right way’, that’s always how it is for me. I would say ‘Look, as racing drivers we exist to win, and if you tell us we can’t win, it’s like you are taking our air away, our life away’. It’s that deep.”
Hamilton said the decision to make the switch and gift him the victory did not come from him but from the pit wall, although he knows the way they finished has a bearing on Mercedes’ aim to take both titles.
“I would never wish it upon anyone else and would never ask for it, ever. I made sure when we were in a meeting before, I was like ‘Just so you know, I’ve never gone to Toto and those guys, this is not how I want to win’,” said the Briton. “Obviously, the team took the decision when they saw that my tyres were blistered and Vettel was charging from behind.
“There are stronger heads in the team who are like ‘We have to win, it’s all about the win. We have got to win both Championships, we don’t care who finishes ahead’.”
Hamilton insists it is important to credit Bottas for his performance in Sochi, but ultimately the victory is not one of the proudest of his career.
“I think ultimately, it’s really important right this second to first acknowledge Valtteri, because as I said he was just the ultimate gentleman,” said Hamilton.
“It is very weird to feel down but we’ve also got to feel grateful to the guys back at the factory. So many people are working flat-out to make sure we have a 1-2 like this, the team have just done an incredible job this weekend.
“We have to really embrace the moment still, but it’s definitely a victory on my list of wins that I am least proud of.”