Valtteri Bottas labelled his drive at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as he “best race ever” in Formula 1 as the Finn claimed the first win of the 2019 season.
Bottas eased to a comfortable victory around Albert Park after beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton off the line to lead into Turn 1, thereafter managing the gap to the reigning world champion.
It marks Bottas’ first win since Abu Dhabi in 2017 and the fourth of his career, the 29-year-old left stunned by the performance of the Mercedes on the back of pre-season testing.
Asked if he considered his drive as his best in F1, Bottas said: “I think so. I don’t know just what happened.
“I don’t know what to say. The start was really good. It was definitely my best race ever. I don’t know what happened, I just felt so good and everything was under control.
“The car was so good today. Truly enjoyable, and I need to enjoy today.”
Bottas endured a winless streak in 2018 as he came under fire for a run of poor results, particularly at the tail end of the year.
The Finn paid homage to the work he’d put in over the winter to bounce back from last year’s forgettable campaign.
“It’s all [about] the past years in Formula 1, all the work over the winter, all the work I’ve done inside here since last year,” he said.
“In the beginning it was all about managing the race and trying to build a gap. After five, six, seven laps I started to build the gap and I had a great feeling.
“I knew I could do it, I have done it before. It was about being at my best level, at one in the car. When you’re really on it, it feels kind of easy. In the end, it isn’t but that’s what you brain tells you.”
Bottas also became the first driver to be awarded a point for fastest lap under the new rules, claiming 26 points in the drivers’ standings and an eight-point buffer over his rivals.
“I knew it’s a new rule for this year, as I had really strong pace I wanted to go for that in the end,” added Bottas.
“It’s always risky with the worn tyres but it was worth it. [I’m] happy and can’t wait for the next race.”