SOCHI (Russia) • For once, there was a subdued celebration from Lewis Hamilton. The Briton's body language told the whole story, that he probably felt he did not fully deserve his race victory.
In Sochi yesterday, the Mercedes driver had his teammate Valtteri Bottas to thank after the Finn moved aside, on team orders, to allow him to win the Russian Grand Prix and surge 50 points clear in the Formula One championship with five races remaining.
"It's actually quite a difficult day because Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by," the four-time world champion said of Bottas, who started on pole ahead of him.
"It's been such a great weekend for the team. They've done such an exceptional job. Usually we'd just be elated, but I can understand how difficult it was for Valtteri and he really deserved to win.
"Championship wise, as a team we are trying to win both so today it was a real team effort. Whilst it doesn't feel spectacular, I know he's going to do well in races to come."
The victory was a landmark 70th for Hamilton. His closest rival Sebastian Vettel finished third for Ferrari with Bottas, who was told to let Hamilton through after 25 of 53 laps, securing a Mercedes one-two.
"A difficult day. A good result for us as a team and we got maximum points but, personally, it was quite a difficult race," said Bottas.
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 27min 25.181sec
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +2.545sec
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +7.487
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +16.543
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +31.016
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +1min 20.451sec
7 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber +1:38.390
8 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas +1 lap
9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India +1 lap
10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +1 lap
1 Hamilton 306 pts 2 Vettel 256 3 Bottas 189 4 Raikkonen 1865 Verstappen 158
1 Mercedes 495pts 2 Ferrari 442 3 Red Bull 292 4 Renault 91 5 Haas 80
"We always go through all the scenarios, Lewis is fighting for the championship and we are fighting for the constructors', so we always have a plan - but it's always difficult to predict what's going to happen in the race. It is what it is."
In a race with little other drama, Max Verstappen celebrated his 21st birthday in style by steering his Red Bull from 19th to fifth, behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Mercedes remain unbeaten in Russia, yesterday being their fifth win in Sochi since 2014. Hamilton has now won eight races this term.
The Briton, who pulled off an impressive overtake on Vettel for fourth after he dropped behind the German at the pit stops, stayed in the car for some time after he parked at the finish.
He then immediately went over to thank Bottas and commiserate.
At the podium ceremonies, with Russian President Vladimir Putin doing the honours, Hamilton graciously manoeuvred the Finn onto the top step alongside him.
Bottas, without a win this season, had asked the team over the radio, more in hope than expectation, in the closing laps whether the order might change back.
"Is this how we are going to finish the race?" he asked, before the answer from team boss Toto Wolff came back in the affirmative.
Mercedes had been equivocal about using team orders before the race. However, having faced such tough competition from Ferrari and Vettel this season and, with Bottas clearly out of the title fight, the team opted to ensure Hamilton moved one step closer to closing out the championship.
They are in a superb position to do so. On this evidence, their car looks exceptionally strong going forward, while Ferrari must find more from their new package.
"It was tricky - they (Hamilton and Bottas) worked very well together," said Vettel. "I think everybody had more or less the same pace. I tried my best to put pressure on Valtteri, but I couldn't get close enough."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS