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Toto Wolff, team principal for the Silver Arrows, admitted it was an agonising decision, and one which led to him enduring a restless night on Saturday after Bottas beat Hamilton to pole.

With the drivers' championship in mind, Mercedes acted on lap 25, telling Bottas to slow down and let Hamilton through at Turn 13, which he did.

A sheepish Lewis Hamilton increased his lead in this year's drivers' world championship to 50 points when he claimed an accomplished victory, aided by Mercedes team tactics, in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix. "I definitely don't think I have finished first in my career, and felt the way that I do right now".

This relegated a grumpy Bottas to third to protect the Englishman from Vettel, but cost the Mercedes pair as Verstappen pulled clear by 2.8 seconds. Bottas, however, said he would not be willing to accept it.

"Is this how we are going to finish the race?" he asked, before the answer came back in the affirmative.

Speaking to the BBC after the 2010 German Grand Prix, Schumacher, now at Mercedes, defended Ferrari's order but, in part, could also see the other side of the picture when linking back to team orders in his tenure at the Italian outfit. "I think we have a good vehicle, we need to make sure we keep improving it".

In the aftermath, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he would rather be the "baddie" now than the "idiot" at the end of the season and talked about the "harsh realities" of fighting for and winning championships.

After a slow pit stop, Hamilton briefly found himself behind Vettel before completing an audacious overtaking move on the German to reclaim his track position.

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"Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by", Hamilton told the post-race press conference.

"If it goes well, we will know that, despite the hard situation in terms of the classification, we still have the right weapons with which to fight all the way to the very end".

Yes, it may have been laced with controversy and disappointment for one of their drivers, but Mercedes proved it is the king in Russian Federation with yet another win at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel was encouraged unexpectedly by Ferrari's performance on Sunday when he followed Hamilton and Bottas.

"Rationally, it was the right decision, but our sporting heart says no".

Lewis Hamilton has questioned Ferrari's decision to axe Kimi Raikkonen.

Talking to reporters at the post-race news conference, Vettel said: "I think "well done" to both of them - they played together as a team very well".