Lewis Hamilton takes 100th career victory in wet Russian Grand Prix
After his first victory in 2007, no one could have guessed that, 14 years later, Lewis Hamilton would not just set but beat his own Formula 1 records.
After playing an excellent strategy call in the rain, Hamilton claimed his 100th career Formula 1 victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday. Passing Lando Norris after going in the wet, Hamilton became the first driver in F1 history to accomplish such a feat, also snatching the championship lead from Max Verstappen.
Started dead last on the grid after taking his engine crash penalty, a podium could have seemed out of reach for Max Verstappen. However, when the rains came, Red Bull’s clever pit strategy coupled with incredible driving earned him a second place finish. Minimizing Verstappen’s loss of points in the championship, the gap is now only two between the duo with nine races to go.
After leading early, Carlos Sainz recovered from a slow pit stop to take the second podium of the season and his first since the Monaco Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas complete the top five.
Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and George Russell received the last paying positions.
Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi were the only retirements from the race.
From the start, Sainz managed to clear Norris before turn 1. Hamilton got stuck and ended up stuck behind Ricciardo’s McLaren. Meanwhile, at the back, Verstappen, Bottas and Leclerc mounted a furious charge to gain positions.
Norris tracked down Sainz before taking the lead on lap 13.
Walk around first as the undercut was super important; Joining him were Ricciardo and Sainz who both suffered from slow pit stops. Most of the leaders chose to stay outside a little longer, but the threat of rain was looming on the horizon.
The laps continued to follow one another and Hamilton got closer and closer to Norris. About five minutes from the end, the rains finally came: light at first but picking up over time. Hamilton hit the pits first for the intermediates, while Norris decided to play to see if he could hold out just three more laps.
Unfortunately for Norris, the rains were torrential, which allowed the bet to pay off for Hamilton. To add insult to injury, Norris went off the track, almost sealing the mark of the century for the Mercedes driver.
“It took a long time to get to the 100 and sometimes I wasn’t sure that would happen,” said Hamilton. “Lando did such an incredible job, he had an incredible pace. It was bittersweet to see my old team in the lead. The team made a great call at the end; I didn’t want to let Lando go but again I didn’t know what the weather was like.
For Norris, it was a total heartbreak. What seemed like his first career victory slipped away, literally, as wet weather conditions ruined his run. An excellent drive turned towards Norris summoned to the stewards after crossing the white line at the entrance to the pits. Awarded Rider of the Day, he and his fans will have to hang on to what could have been on the streets of Sochi.
“I don’t know where to start. I made a decision just as much as the team,” Norris said. “They thought I could box, my decision, I thought that was the right way to go. C ‘is pure heartbreak. I did all I could, luckily… I was told the rain was the same amount, if it had been the same staying outside would have been the right decision.
While Norris was heartbroken and Hamilton celebrated, Verstappen could leave Russia happiest of all. Starting last and fighting until P2, what seemed like a lost cause ended up becoming a pivotal moment in the championship fight.
“It was quite difficult on the turn to make the call for the inters, it was really slippery.” said Verstappen. “If we had taken a lap earlier, you would have destroyed the inters. The race itself was not very easy. Fortunately, with the rain it helped us make that last jump. With the penalty that we had, of losing only one place… when I woke up, I really did not expect this result.
The F1 circuit will take a week off before heading to the site where Hamilton clinched his seventh title last season: Intercity Istanbul Park.
Hamilton is the defending winner, while Verstappen will look to bounce back with a new engine. The lights out for the Turkish Grand Prix will take place at 9 a.m.ET on October 10. TV coverage will be provided by ESPN in the United States.
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