Lewis Hamilton has claimed his 100th race victory at the 2021 Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes. But it almost didn’t happen. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen charged through the back of the grid to finish second ahead of Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. The Sochi Autodrome had become infamous for providing uneventful Grands Prix in the past. However, a mixed-up grid and the late arrival of rain provided a Formula One race that will go down in history.
Lando Norris started from pole for McLaren with Sainz alongside. At the start, Sainz timed and positioned himself perfectly to gain from the slipstream from Norris and Russell. Eventually, Sainz got past Norris to take the lead. After a few laps, Norris showed his true pace and regained the lead.
However, the tensions began to rise after all the drivers had made their stops. Norris was in the lead with Hamilton closing in the gap. Some half a minute behind were the rest of the pack with Sainz in third after an early stop.
With 15 laps to go, the battle for the win was gaining intensity. Not a fingernail probably exists in the McLaren and Mercedes garages or the grandstands in Sochi.
Norris had preserved some life in his tyres and was leading Hamilton with an astonishing level of calmness and precision. Just as Hamilton started to close the gap to get within DRS range, Norris would gain traction and escape it to always cross the DRS detection point to over one second ahead.
Then with just a few laps remaining, the rain started to fall over a section of the track. As the rest of the pack behind started to scramble, diving into the pit lane, we all waited to see if Norris would pit first for interest, or will Mercedes call Hamilton in?
Norris felt comfortable on the slicks despite the slippery conditions. Hamilton followed him for a few laps and disregarded the team’s call to box. With just four laps to go, Hamilton pitted while Norris stayed out. Mercedes felt the rain was going to get worse, but Norris chose to gamble.
A gamble that two laps later resulted in a slipping sliding McLaren nearly hitting the barriers on the damp part of the track. Hamilton charged through the pack on a fresh set of intermediate tyres to take the lead and go on to win the 100th race of his career.
In the scramble for pitting for the moist weather tyres, Verstappen gained the most places. As Norris dropped down the order, Verstappen found himself up to second place after starting dead last on the grid. Verstappen finished P2 to keep the title fight to Hamilton close and Sainz came to finish third for Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth ahead of Valtteri Bottas in fifth. Alonso finished sixth as Norris ended up in seventh. However, a mishap in the treacherous conditions while entering the pitlane might result in a penalty for Norris. Kimi Raikkonen was classified P8 in the Alfa Romeo with Sergio Perez and George Russell finishing in the top 10.
A third of the 2021 F1 season now remains. Hamilton currently leads Verstappen in the championship by two points. The next round will be held in Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix, but this fight may be going down to the wire.
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