Mercedes dominated the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix and took their third one-two of the season to strengthen their position at the top of the championship and put further pressure on Ferrari to keep up.
Valtteri Bottas was on pole as he and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row but they quickly switched places going into the first corner in Shanghai.
From there on out, as Ferrari battled with team orders behind them, which only served to allow Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to get involved in the battle, the Mercedes duo were in clear air.
That was, until Red Bull attempted to undercut Ferrari and, as a result, Ferrari’s reaction to a second pit stop threatened to undercut Mercedes.
And then that was when the magic happened, when Mercedes showed their superiority which has made them so formidable in the hybrid era.
Afraid that pitting Hamilton first, who was leading the race by around three seconds, would put Bottas at risk from Sebastian Vettel on fresh tyres, and that pitting Bottas first would potentially see him overtake Hamilton, they were left with one option.
In a bid to let their drivers earn their own points at the start of the season, rather than meddle with the order, Mercedes tried a risky double stack, which would potentially leave Bottas waiting behind Hamilton in the pits if there was any sort of delay.
“I was very concerned,” said Bottas. “You know you’re going to lose time being the car behind, but it was due to the start that I was in that position.
“I was questioning the team – if I could stop later, or carry on without stopping – but there was too big a risk in terms of tyre life, if we can make it or not.
“I was questioning because if I could do something different, other than stopping behind Lewis, that was going to be my only chance to win the race. I knew if we were [both] coming in, that’s going to be pretty much it unless something crazy happens.
“But I’m glad the stop went well. I lost some time, but minimal, so the team did a good job on that. And now, seeing all the data just briefly, from the team’s point of view I think it was definitely the right thing to do, to make sure we were going to be one-two.”
The two stops were done to perfection and, in an eye-watering time of 6.2 seconds, both cars were back on track and still running in P1 and P2.
“It was an interesting situation because it was clear that Valtteri was under pressure from Sebastian,” team principal Toto Wolff said.
“So if Sebastian would have stopped he would have undercut Valtteri, so the logical choice is to stop Valtteri first. But if you would have stopped Valtteri, then he would have undercut Lewis.
“So we didn’t want to interfere with the order, so that’s why we decided to stack. We knew we just about had the gap to stack them properly and gave the commitment to Valtteri that we wouldn’t lose him any time, and it was really impressive how the guys did it.”