Having been outpaced by Ferrari, and Leclerc in particular, all weekend, the race fell into Mercedes' lap when Sebastian Vettel retired, triggering a Virtual Safety Car.
The timing was perfect for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton and Bottas yet to pit, while Leclerc had already been serviced. It allowed Hamilton and Bottas to dive in for soft tyres, while Leclerc gave up second place to Bottas in order to stop again and fit matching tyres.
Given the strength of the Ferrari beforehand, Leclerc had been expected to make short work of Bottas and hunt down Hamilton for the win, but he could not find a way through the Finn, as the Silver Arrows kept up a 100 per cent winning record in Russia.
Strategy chief James Vowles said in Mercedes' YouTube debrief: "At the restart it was clear we were going to be in a certain amount of pressure and trouble from the Ferrari.
"They are extremely quick in a straight line and especially on the run down to Turn 2, and with a DRS that opens several laps after the safety car, we thought it would be incredibly difficult to hold onto that position to the end of the race.
"Valtteri didn't make a single mistake. He didn't lock the brakes going into Turn 2, he defended in every corner as he needed to. More so, he was continuously going up and down on the energy systems in order to maximise his speed down into Turn 2 and he did it perfectly.
"Leclerc backed off several times, you would've seen that, just to cool the tyres down and have another opportunity, build his battery back up and attack again. And every time he did, Valtteri responded with the same switches on his side, dog fighting to the end of the race, and [he] did a perfect job."
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