Valtteri Bottas wins maiden F1 GP in Russian Federation

Vettel's second-placed finish still sees him extend his lead at the top of the drivers' championship to 13 points ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who was only able to finish fourth behind Raikkonen. Bottas regained the lead again on lap 35, but Vettel kept coming closer to Bottas towards the conclusion of the race, narrowing the gap to 1.8 seconds when the Ferrari driver had fresher rubber in comparison to the Finn.

(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin). Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his vehicle during the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the "Sochi Autodrom" circuit, in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, April.

"It's all a bit surreal, the first win and hopefully the first of many. It's not going to that simple this year, it's going to be a massive fight". It's going to be a long year with a lot of fighting with all these cars. He went on to win 20 races, as has countryman Kimi Raikkonen.

"From probably lap five onwards, I had to just slow down and stay in fourth (place)".

The unflappable Bottas has proved already that he is not only very different to retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, but likely to be just as formidable a team-mate to three-time champion Hamilton.

"I think through the race I understood it. Speed-wise I think I know where it is".

It was hard to recall a time where even Nico Rosberg, the man whom Bottas replaced at Mercedes, delivered such a devastating defeat.

Valtteri Bottas says that Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton could become a rival as the season starts to gather pace.

However, despite the bullish talk from Bottas, team boss Toto Wolff remains confident the two drivers, whom he has described as having no baggage with each other, will remain friendly.

"The relationship between the two of them is very intact", Wolff said. Nevertheless they are fierce competitors and want to win races and fight for the championship.

Hamilton was at a complete loss to explain why he was so far off the pace in Russian Federation.

Ferrari took their first front-row lock-out for nine years on Saturday as Mercedes struggled to get the best out of the ultra-soft tyres on a single qualifying lap.

Bottas held on to the lead in a dramatic end to the race.

The next race is in Barcelona on May 14, which marks the start of the European phase of the season. The team are expected to have an upgrade to their package in Spain and they need it.

  • Julie Sanders