Sochi - A delighted Lewis Hamilton said his unexpected victory in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix had been an inspiring experience that reminded him of how he felt after the first win of his career.
The series leader and defending five-time champion made the most of a disappointing day for feuding Ferrari and a kind Safety Car intervention to come home ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
It extended Mercedes perfect record to six wins out of six races since Russia joined the F1 calendar in 2014.
It was Hamilton's ninth win this year and first in four outings since the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 4 and ended a run of three consecutive Ferrari victories.
"It's incredible to have this result -- it feels like a long time coming, but it feels like the first time as well," he said.
"It feels long, particularly with the break and everything. It's really down to the team -- we all had to play our part, and I think we brought our A game today.
"Just keeping up with them was an incredibly hard task this weekend -- it's so hard just to try and stay within distance of them. To separate them in qualifying was good.
"They were on another planet when we took off at the start. They were gone!
"After that, they had such great pace, so I was struggling just to keep up."
In a bid to keep their hopes alive, Mercedes had chosen a risky strategy by starting on medium tyres -- while their rivals were all on softs -- and seeking to stay out longer to gain an advantage.
Hamilton said he understood the theory, but said it did not work out in practice.
"We thought the soft tyre would drop off so this morning was like 'either we're right in our estimation of the tyre or they're right' and I think they were! The soft tyre went really far."
Hamilton battled to keep them within reach and closed the gap before a Safety Car, when Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari stopped with a power failure, handing him the initiative.
"That stole things from the fans," he added.
"I thought we were going to have a real race. We love the challenge with Ferrari now and it's great to see them performing so well.
"I'm really excited for the next few races. It takes a lot of energy, but that's what we are here for!"
Hamilton's 82nd career victory moved him closer to Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 wins and lifted him 73 points clear of Bottas with five races remaining.
"I say this every year, but, honestly, I try not to think about the championship," said Hamilton, avoiding talk of a prospective sixth title.
"Today was about the team. It was an incredible job by all the guys. No giving up. Keep trying new things and pushing forwards. Always innovative and never giving up. That's what makes me feel incredibly inspired."