Despite being seen by many as a number two for Lewis Hamilton when he was initially revealed as the retiring Nico Rosberg's replacement at Mercedes before the start of the 2017 campaign, former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has so far thrived this season after joining Toto Wolff's team.
The Finn earned podium finishes in two out of his first three races under the Mercedes umbrella before winning his first ever Formula One race at the weekend during the Russian Grand Prix.
Following the win, he now finds himself third in the overall table for the season, behind only teammate Hamilton and current leader Sebastien Vettel.
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The 27-year-old impressed during the Russian Grand Prix as he dominated the early stages of the race before suffering a major lock-up at the difficult Turn 13 on lap 38, which allowed Vettel to heap the pressure onto the Mercedes man as he fought hardheartedly to win his first F1 for his new team.
Now, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that Bottas somehow managed to hold off Ferrari's Vettel and earn his first ever F1 race whilst driving with severely damaged tyres.
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Speaking about the tyres which slowed the in-control Bottas down, Wolff said: "He locked both front tyres and flat-spotted them, and our metrics showed that it was pretty severe damage to the tyres, which harmed his performance at the end.
"It was a bit of a stressful moment, but he kept it together.
"You could see the pace was still good enough, sector one was obviously very good, but in sector two he was able to fight back and there was the odd tenth he lost. But on the next lap around he was good."
Although it was hard to tell from the television footage of the race just how bad Bottas' tyre issues were, Mercedes claim that the data in their pits suggested that it was a serious problem as Vettel gained ground on the Finn.
Speaking after the race, Bottas stated that the lock-up was a result of the temperature dropping in his front tyres which cost him what was a comfortable lead up until that point.
"I definitely lost some time during that lap with the flat spot," he said. "The team was [previously] asking me to go forward with the brake bias, giving advice just to help the tyre temperatures.
"Then I had the flat spot so I had to go rearwards. I also had a little bit of traffic during that point.
"This track, it's so special about the rhythm. If you find the rhythm then you can be so quick here, and get consistent lap times and be on it. But if you lose it, it always takes a few laps to get it back here."
"So I kind of lost the rhythm for a bit, plus the backmarkers. Once I was in free air again, able to focus on my job itself, I managed to get the tyre temperatures back up and pick up the pace."
Can Bottas challenge for the Formula One championship this season? Have YOUR say in the comments below.
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