Mercedes were gifted a relatively pressure-free afternoon at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Already boasting a 102-point lead going into the Sepang event, the German team could afford a less than perfect performance from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Their position became even more comfortable after qualifying when Sebastian Vettel was unable to clock a single lap due to power unit issues with his Ferrari.
While most professionals enjoy being tested by their rivals, Mercedes surely found it difficult not to smile after Kimi Raikkonen retired on the starting grid because of a mechanical failure.
Yep. Just about everything went the championship leaders’ way in Malaysia.
But Mercedes didn’t take full advantage of the situation with Hamilton and Bottas finishing second and fifth respectively.
It’s certainly not a bad result given the circumstances, but the latter will be ruing his inability to overturn a string of poor outings.
Bottas was finally handed a one-year contract extension in mid-September following speculation over whether his stint with Mercedes would extend beyond a mere 12 months.
The Finn – who replaced Nico Rosberg at the beginning of the year – has managed ten podium finishes during 2017 including wins in Russia and Austria.
However, his form throughout the second half of the campaign has been less impressive in the shadow of Hamilton’s ongoing success – a concern echoed by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
"Yes I'm worried because I want Valtteri to do well and everybody wants Valtteri to do well," he said, per Sky Sports.
"You need to have the car in the sweet spot to extract maximum grip and that is not easy.
"Valtteri seems to struggle more with finding the sweet spot than Lewis. There are so many factors involved but I have no doubt that with his intelligence that he's going to fit the jigsaw together.
"We have many more races to do together to undo the problem and very good drivers are able to pick themselves out of a difficult situation. I have no doubt that Valtteri will do that."
While the race for the drivers’ championship has long been a two-man race, Bottas can aim to kick-start a strong finish to the season at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit next weekend.
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