Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix, putting in a gutsy performance to claim his 100th Formula One victory. The Mercedes driver beat the Red Bull of his title rival Max Verstappen into second, with the Dutchman pulling off a remarkable recovery drive from the back of the grid.
The McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo was in third. Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas in fifth. McLaren’s Lando Norris drove a magnificent race, leading for much of it only to be denied a potential win by rain late in the race, he finished seventh.
Hamilton had started in fourth but he and Mercedes maintained their composure throughout, moving through the field with calm driving and strategy while Norris was superb out front. Holding off Hamilton in the final laps the young British driver gambled on staying out on slick tyres in the rain only for the conditions to worsen, costing him his lead.
Hamilton’s 100th career win alongside his 100th pole position, which he took in Spain earlier this year, seals a remarkable double-century. The scale of his achievement in his 15th season in F1 is remarkable.
He has already surpassed Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins – the next most successful driver is Sebastian Vettel with 53 victories. Hamilton has committed to race on for a further two years with Mercedes, which will doubtless ensure his tally rises further. He remains the only driver to have taken a win in every season in which he has competed and is setting new benchmarks while attempting to take his eighth title this season, which would surpass Schumacher’s seven.
Hamilton’s fifth win at the Russian GP – more than any other driver – has edged him ahead in a tightly fought championship. He leads Verstappen by two points but would have hoped to put more points on the Dutchman, who was sent to the back of the grid after taking a new engine this weekend.
The leaders got away well but Sainz, with a tow from Norris, took the lead through turn two. Hamilton was boxed in and went backwards, dropping to seventh by the end of lap one, passed by both Ricciardo and Lance Stroll who both made superb starts. Verstappen had already made it up to 17th.
Hamilton moved up to sixth on lap two, quickly catching Ricciardo who was the rear car in a train behind George Russell and Stroll, all well-matched on straightline pace. Verstappen caught Valtteri Bottas in 14th by lap five and swept by on lap six, with Bottas notably putting up no real defence.
With Russell holding up the chasing drivers, Sainz and Norris opened a gap of seven seconds, with Norris right on the Spaniard’s wing. With a clearly quicker car, the British driver was pushing hard and finally made a pass stick on lap 13 down the back straight. Sainz pitted on lap 15 but Mercedes left Hamilton out. Verstappen meanwhile was charging up to sixth, just 10 seconds off Hamilton by lap 17 and on the hard tyre going long.
Norris and Hamilton stayed out, with the world champion having saved his tyres – he was still enjoying good grip and clocked the fastest lap. He pitted on lap 27 to take the hard tyre to go to the end and Verstappen followed him in. Hamilton emerged in ninth, quickly passed Stroll and was now ahead of the train of cars that had been holding him up in the opening stages.
The race leader Norris was comfortable with his grip but with Hamilton quicker on his new rubber McLaren pitted him on lap 28. Crucially he emerged in front of Sainz with the drivers in front of him yet to stop. Hamilton swiftly got past Sainz as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told him “Lewis you can win this race”. He was 13 seconds behind Norris with 23 laps remaining. The gap was down to five seconds by lap 35 as the world champion flew.
As the remaining drivers pitted, Norris once more led by two and half seconds from Hamilton but was completely composed with the world champion in his mirrors. Hamilton had closed to just over a second by lap 44 but Norris and his Mercedes engine were a formidable combination.
With a gripping climax on the cards rain began falling with eight laps remaining. Norris went wide on the greasy surface allowing Hamilton to close. Both drivers had to back off as the rain got harder and Mercedes called Hamilton in for wet tyres but he stayed out, as did Norris.
Norris insisted he could stay on the slicks as Hamilton did pit for inters on lap 50. He emerged 25 seconds back as Norris squirrelled round the track losing time as he tried to keep the car online. It was hugely tense as the rain intensified until Norris could hold it no longer and slid off on lap 51. Hamilton took the lead as Verstappen, who had taken wet tyres much earlier, made it up to second when Norris pitted.
Hamilton and Mercedes had called it well to take the win but it was heartbreaking for Norris, who might well have held on for the win but for the late downpour. Fernando Alonso was in sixth for Alpine and Kimi Raikkonen in eighth for Alfa Romeo. Sergio Pérez was ninth for Red Bull and George Russell 10th for Williams.