The Sochi Autodrome was about hero or zero stuff.
An exciting Formula 1 Grand Prix of Russia, triggered by an unusually formed starting field, should lead to a direct battle between Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton. Norris chased the # 1 victory while Hamilton chased the # 100 victory. However, the rain gods had one last litter.
On a gloomy day near the Black Sea, the group of showers that threatened for most of the afternoon began to pour over the middle section of the lap for the last half-dozen of the remaining 53 laps.
Lewis Hamilton appreciates the weekend that Lando Norris, right, pulled through in Sochi.
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Neither front runner Norris nor pursuer Hamilton wanted to pit for intermediate tires, but the experienced Hamilton pitted only two laps before the end of the race at the behest of his Mercedes team. Leader Norris stayed outside.
Norris was nearly half a minute ahead when Hamilton got back on track and stayed out for an extra lap, but as the rain continued to sweep over the Sochi Autodrom it was clear that Norris was struggling lost ground.
Norris hit turn 5 on lap 51 of 53, failed to turn the corner and spun into the wet run-off. Hamilton went through while Norris pitted to take on the intermediates after a desperately slow half-lap, eventually finishing seventh. It paved the way for Hamilton to win # 100 with an unexpected 52-second lead over Max Verstappen in an upside-down Grand Prix.
Hamilton had finished seventh on the first lap but waited to finish second and chase Norris when the rain set in.
Achieving 100 wins is an extraordinary achievement for Hamilton. Only 73 drivers in history have even made 100 starts. Hamilton’s first win came in 2007 in Canada, while beating Michael Schumacher’s previous benchmark of 91 wins last October. Third on the list is Sebastian Vettel, 53. Hamilton is under contract with Mercedes until 2023, which gives him ample opportunity to further increase the balance sheet.
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“It’s a magical moment,” he said. “I could only have dreamed of being here and having the opportunity to win and drive these races with such phenomenal talent so late in my career and to continue building with Mercedes, I’m so proud of everything we have Not only made on the track, but also off the beaten track. Yeah, it’s just a special moment.
“I was like, ‘(I want) stay out, I’ll try to catch him,’ then they called me and I said, ‘he’s about to be there, I only have three rounds or so,’ I’m not I’ll be the one No way to make up for time, I wasn’t convinced, but it rained more on the next lap and I was more convinced there, so I got in [for wet tires]. I put all my trust in my team, they called me, I believed them, we did a great job understanding where the rain was coming, that it was going to get worse, and they were 100% right. “
Lando Norris, left, found that his tires were unable to withstand the late rain that hit the Sochi track.
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His day will come for 21 year old Norris. He was one of the standout stars of the 2021 season and was only a few laps away from fame. Another day the rain might have subsided and made him and McLaren look like heroes, but not this time.
“I could have won the race and didn’t make it, so I won’t be happy,” he said. “The way it is, I made the decisions, we made the decisions, they were obviously wrong at the end of the day. A tough one. For some reason we didn’t see how much rain was suddenly coming. I wasn’t told that, I didn’t know, and I made my decision based on the information that the drizzle was going to stay drizzle and not rain, so, yeah, I don’t know, everything just went so well that it feels worse. Not the result we wanted in the end. “
It was quite a comedown after peaking a first pole on Saturday and McLaren’s first win in nine years in Italy, but there was consolation from a free Hamilton.
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“He’s so young, he still has so many wins to go, he’s done a fantastic job, he’s doing a great job at McLaren,” said Hamilton.
It was a good day for Verstappen. After an engine change he started last and made good progress early on, but reached a probable limit with seventh place. But the late rain made for an unexpected upturn, and Verstappen rolled the dice by moving to advanced early. He moved up from seventh to second place, limiting the damage in the championship on a weekend when he and Red Bull feared a worse result.
Carlos Sainz, who was leading early, was an excellent third for Ferrari and took up a position meant for Sergio Perez before the rain.
“Of course I’m really happy about second place,” said Verstappen. “If you had told me this morning that I would be second today, I wouldn’t believe you.”
The result means that Hamilton moves into the next round in Turkey as leaders, although Verstappen is only two points behind.
F1 Russian Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 53 laps
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +53.2 seconds
- Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, +1.02.4
- Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, +1: 05.6
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, +1: 07.5
- Fernando Alonso, Alpine, +1: 21.3
- Lando Norris, McLaren, +1: 27.2
- Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, +1: 28.9
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +1: 30.0
- George Russell, Williams, +1: 40.5
- Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +1: 46.1
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, 1 lap
- Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, 1 lap
- Esteban Ocon, Alpine, 1 lap
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1 lap
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, l lap
- Yuki Tsunoda, AlfaTauri, 1 lap
- Nikita Mazepin, Haas, 2 rounds
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams, 6 rounds
- Mick Schumacher, Haas, 21 laps
F1 drivers’ championship
- Lewis Hamilton 246.5
- Max Verstappen 244.5
- Valtteri bottas 151
- Lando norris 139
- Sergio perez 120
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 112.5
- Charles Leclerc 104
- Daniel Ricciardo 95
- Pierre Gasly 66
- Fernando Alonso 58
- Esteban Ocon 45
- Sebastian Vettel 35
- Lance hike 24
- Yuki Tsunoda 18
- George Russell 16
- Nicholas Latifi 7
- Kimi Raikkonen 6
- Antonio Giovinazzi 1
- Mick Schumacher 0
- Robert Kubica 0
- Nikita Mazepin 0
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