September 26, (THEWILL) – Sir Lewis Hamilton, race driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, became the first Formula One driver to win 100 Grands Prix after taking victory in a dramatic Sunday rainy Russia track that sent the Mercedes driver two points clear in the drivers’ championship standings.
Leading rival Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished an impressive second at Sochi’s Olympic Park, after starting 20th and last due to engine penalties, thereby limiting the damage from his rival’s fifth win of the season but first since July.
In third place was the Spaniard Carlos Sainz for Ferrari on a day of hope and ultimate heartbreak for McLaren’s Lando Norris as a late downpour dashed his hopes of a first win to pieces after the 21-year-old Briton started on pole for the first time in his career.
He initially lost out to Sainz at the start but then passed the Spaniard 13 laps later and was still leading when the clouds burst and the downpour began. Norris decided to stay out on slicks, after Hamilton had stopped for intermediates on team advice, with the top two comfortably clear of the rest.
Hamilton, who had slipped to seventh at the end of lap one, after losing out at the start and being fourth on the grid, made up places as those ahead of him pitted early.
The Brit was still 25 seconds behind Norris after his final stop but the Mercedes team had read the weather right and the tyres easily allowed him to catch up and overtake his compatriot for a landmark win.
Hamilton appreciated the assistance of the weather. In post-race remarks, he said: “What a race the weather provided. It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and I wasn’t sure it would come. Max must’ve done a really great job to come up to second from last. We’ve got our work cut out.”
THEWILL recalls that last season, Hamilton broke Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s previous record of 91 wins. This Sunday, as he extended it to 100, he had Verstappen’s lead in his sights. He started the day five points behind Verstappen with seven races remaining after Sochi in the calendar.
He had nothing but praise for his crew: “The team made a great call right at the end. I didn’t want to let Lando go and I didn’t know what the weather was doing. It would’ve been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn’t been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic.”
It was also a celebration for the Mercedes team, which maintained their own 100% record in Sochi. The leading unit has now won every Russian GP since the first in 2014 and Hamilton has been triumphant in five of them.
At the end, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who won the previous race at Italy’s Monza circuit, was fourth for McLaren, with Valtteri Bottas fifth for Mercedes after starting 16th. Both benefited from stopping early for the treaded tyres. Double world champion Fernando Alonso was sixth for Renault-owned Alpine.
In eighth was Kimi Raikkonen, who was returning for Alfa Romeo after missing the previous two races due to a positive COVID-19 test while in ninth was Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
George Russell, who had started a stunning third for Williams, struggled to 10th and his fourth points finish in the last five races was encouragement for a team that had not scored for two years before that. Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, was the only retirement from the race in his Haas car.
Victory in Russia saw Mercedes stretch their lead over Red Bull in the constructors’ standings to 33 points. They will now look forward to doing the same at Turkey’s Istanbul Park on October 10. It was there, in November last year, that Hamilton won his record-equalling seventh title there last November in a wet and slippery race.