Clever driving from Valtteri Bottas was all that avoided a collision with Daniel Ricciardo in the Chinese Grand Prix lead battle, according to Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff.
Ricciardo stormed to an unlikely win in China, making the most of a set fresh of soft-compound rubber in the closing stages thanks to a strategic gamble from his Red Bull crew.
He benefited from a mistake from team-mate Max Verstappen then passed Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, and Sebastian Vettel before an inch-perfect move for the lead down the inside of Bottas into Turn 6 with 12 laps to go.
Though he conceded that it was an impressive drive from off-contract Ricciardo, Wolff was keen to point out that the "brutal" pass for the lead only worked thanks to cooperation from Bottas.
"Daniel is one of the very good drivers, and he proved it again," said Wolff.
"He was very efficient, he was able to wait for his opportunity, he was aggressive when it was needed. Overall, a very good race for him.
"Maybe the manoeuvre on Valtteri was a bit... brutal. But it proved to work.
"He had Valtteri helping him with that, to avoid a collision. But that is racing and great."
Wolff added that Bottas's performance in the race was the silver lining on a difficult weekend for Mercedes, which was off Ferrari's pace in qualifying and could only achieve fourth with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton.
"The only thing I see positive is Valtteri's race," Wolff said.
"That was really awesome. No mistakes. Unlucky with the safety car.
"Even with the Ricciardo overtake, if Valtteri wouldn't have opened the door last minute Ricciardo would have taken him out.
"He's the only one who was without fault [in the race]."
Pass was a "matter of time"
Bottas said he left the door ajar because he did not want to compromise the exit of Turn 6, and due to a sense of inevitability over Ricciardo's progress.
"He was really closing in quickly and a big pace difference," said Bottas.
"They had a really strong car and on top of that fresh tyres at that point so seeing the pace he disappeared afterwards, it think it was only a matter of time.
"By that situation I was going to defend into Turn 6, so it was a bit of a compromise how extreme you go with it - if you go very extreme, he's definitely going to get you at the exit if he can choose the line behind you.
"He tends to find space from inside even while you defend and it was just a matter of time."