Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton became Formula One’s only driver to reach 100 career race wins after late drama struck the Russian Grand Prix to give Hamilton the lead of the race and the drivers championship.
Five drivers started the race out of position with grid penalties, more noticably Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas started 16th after taking a ‘tactical’ enigne penalty while Red Bulls Max Verstappen sat at the back of the grid.
McLaren’s Lando Norris sat on pole position for the first time in his F1 career after a thrilling qualifying session, ahead of former teammate Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Williams’ George Russell, respectively.
Six drivers started the race on the hard compound tyres while the remaining 14 drivers opted for the softer medium compound.
Norris got a great getaway but, due to the long run into turn two, Sainz was able to steal the lead away from his former teammate into the first braking zone. While Mercedes’ championship contender, Lewis Hamilton had a poor first lap as he fell from fourth to seventh.
However, Hamilton managed to regain one place back, a lap later, as he went wheel-to-wheel with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso around the long left hander of turn three. The Briton managed to pip ahead of the Spaniard into the braking zone of turn four to secure P6.
By lap six, Hamilton wasn’t able to make a move on McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo as he found himself near the rear of a ‘DRS train’ with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez taking up the rear. While Verstappen was finally able to make a move on, 14th-place, Bottas to obtain P14 for himself into turn 13.
Sainz and Norris found themselves in a battle for the lead of the race on the 11th lap, as the former teammates looked to check out in front with a six-second gap between second-place Norris and third-place Russell.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll became the first driver to pit for fresh hard tyres on lap 13, as it was suggested the undercut was more powerful in Sochi – with an average time loss of 24 seconds. However, Norris managed to regain the lead of the race after he made a move on the Ferrari’s Spaniard along the back DRS zone and well before the braking zone of turn 13.
Verstappen continued his charge towards the front, but his DRS advantage was taken away as both Apline’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen ventured into the pits on lap 15. This temporarily promoted the Dutch Red Bull up to P6.
Get ready to undercut him.Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes pit wall, regarding McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo on lap 21.
Ricciardo ventured into the pit lane, on lap 23, but he suffered a poor pit stop after the Australian’s mechanics had a technical issues with the new pit-stop regulations. Suprisingly, Mercedes didn’t trigger Hamilton to pit a lap later but the seven-time world champion managed to temporarily collect the fastest lap, and the resulting extra point, after he was released into free air when Ricciardo pitted.
Both championship contenders, Hamilton and Verstappen pitted on lap 27 with the Mercedes driver changing for the hard compound while Verstappen reversed his tyres to the medium compounds. But it was a slightly slower stop for the Red Bull, who returned to the track with both Ricciardo and Russell between himself and Hamilton.
With 22 laps left, Hamilton made a charge for the front as he overtook Sainz into turn two and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly along the back straight into turn 13 – all in one lap (31).
Mick Schumacher became the first car to retire from the race on lap 34 as the German driver returned to the pit lane. It was reported, by Haas F1 on Twitter, that he had to retire due to a hydraulic leak.
With laps under one minute-40, Hamilton was clawing into the gap between himself and Norris with less than two seconds separating the two on lap 39. But the seven-time world champion was slightly hindered by Haas’ Nikita Mazepin into Sochi Autodrom’s 13 and 14 turns while Norris cleared the remaining Haas along the DRS zone into turn 13’s braking zone.
Despite the number 44 Mercedes’ best efforts to hunt down his 100th career race win, he remained behind the race leader, Norris, on lap 45 by only just over a second. However, the rain started to fall in the dying laps of the race with the crowds starting to put up their umbrellas.
As the weather conditions started to change, Norris ran wide on the exit of turn five and managed to remained ahead of Hamilton as the British drivers battled it out for the lead of the race.
With only five laps remaining and weather starting to dampen the track drivers started to venture into the pits for sets of intermediates.
Hamilton pitted for intermediates while Norris remained out as the race ventured into lap 50 out of 53. The leading McLaren told his pit wall that he was going to stay out but he lived to regret that decision after he ran wide and gifted Hamilton the race lead.
As a result, the British number 44 Mercedes became the only driver in F1 history to claim 100 F1 race wins – nine more than the legendary Michael Schumacher.
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Carlos Sainz, Ferrari