The first win is the hardest, Lauda tells Bottas

The German crossed the line just 0.6 seconds behind a man who joined Mercedes from Williams in January as replacement for retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg and was finally a victor after 81 starts.

"It's hard to explain the feeling - it's a little bit surreal", quoted as saying.

"I never doubted my skills, but it gives me a lot of confidence, so I'm only expecting better races from here".

"It is good to see that from a three-time World champion".

"It took quite a while to win - more than 80 races for me - but it was definitely worth the wait and worth the learning curve". It quickly fell by the wayside when the lights went out, however, with Bottas getting a good start and jumping Vettel on the run down to Turn 1.

"It doesn't mean that I'm not happy if Seb wins".

Bottas is the fifth Finn to win in Formula One and he believes that clearing that hurdle will now enable him to move on and do it again. But it's nice to get confirmation that the results are possible. After three seasons of near-complete domination from Mercedes, the Italian outfit now appears a more consistent threat to the Silver Arrows at the front.

"I think it will be a very close race between Mercedes and us, I hope, and I also hope that Red Bull find some pace", said Vettel, who holds a 13-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the standings.

"There was this odd opportunity that happened in the winter that made this possible", Bottas said.

"From lap five onwards I just had to slow down and stay in fourth", he said. "Lewis was one of the first ones to congratulate Valtteri on his first race victory and that shows the respect that they have towards one another".

As Hamilton toiled to only fourth, his new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas clinched the first victory of his Formula One career at the 81st attempt as he became the third victor in just four races of this unpredictable season. "Maybe he gained a bit of momentum. There is no reason for me to have any worry of reliability because we have the strongest reliability so far". He then had an awesome first stint -- and I couldn't stay with him'.

Mercedes have now won every grand prix hosted in Sochi since the Russian race started in 2014.

"The relationship between the two of them is very much intact", Wolff said.

"I think I could kind of match those times at the front maybe but whether I would have lasted as long, probably not with the set-up that I had", he said.

"In the race I had overheating, but I think I could have kept up with the guys ahead".

  • Julie Sanders