Lewis Hamilton endured one of his toughest Formula 1 races in recent memory in Russia on Sunday, finishing fourth at the Sochi Autodrom as Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas took his maiden grand prix win.
Hamilton qualified fourth on Saturday, almost half a second back from Bottas and the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who locked out the front row of the grid.
Bottas was able to pass both Ferrari drivers on the first lap en route to victory, but Hamilton struggled to keep up with their pace, finishing some 36 seconds behind his teammate.
“It’s been a very, very tough weekend. I can’t remember having as difficult a weekend,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.
“Probably the last time I remember is Baku or something like that. Just ultimately not quick enough, not got the car where I was comfortable, and then in the race I was overheating so just had to settle for fourth.”
Bottas’ success came in just his fourth race for Mercedes, having replaced F1 world champion Nico Rosberg for 2017 following the German’s shock retirement.
Hamilton has spoken warmly of Bottas on a number of occasions, and was full of praise for the Finn after his success in Sochi.
“Big congratulations to him. He’s done such a great job,” Hamilton said.
“Fantastic teammate to work with. It’s an amazing feeling to win your first grand prix. It will mean a lot to him and his family.”
With title rival Sebastian Vettel finishing second, Hamilton is now 13 points adrift of the championship lead ahead of the fifth race of the year in Spain on May 14.
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we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”