SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton made history during Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The seven-time Formula 1 world champion became the first driver to win 100 grands prix, but the victory was anything but expected.
Hamilton trailed the majority of the race, but the Mercedes team made the call to install intermediate tires late in the event. The move paid off when rain moved in with a few laps remaining.
Hamilton took the lead from polesitter Lando Norris, of McLaren, when Norris slid off course with two laps remaining.
“It’s taken a long time and I wasn’t even sure the 100th would come,” Hamilton said. “Going to bed last night I wasn’t the happiest with the job I did yesterday. I watched the replay over and over again; they were subtle mistakes but I was so determined to put things right when I woke up this morning.
“Today was tough – I lost a lot of ground at the start, just trying to stay out of trouble. I was patient and at the end, when the rain came, I didn’t want to let Lando go by boxing. Of course I didn’t know what the rain was doing, it was just my feeling but I’m incredibly grateful to the strategy team for the job they did today. Getting anywhere near 100 victories wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of the men and women here and back at the factory, I’m so grateful to them – it just feels so special.
“Lando did an amazing job today, he had incredible pace and he’s doing such a great job for McLaren. It was bittersweet to see my old team ahead, they’re doing so well powered by Mercedes and it’s good to see them united again. Max did a good job to come up from second to last, the battle continues and we know we need to be on top form over the remaining races.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s title rival, Max Verstappen completed his charge from 20th after changing Honda engines in his Red Bull entry, by passing Norris on the final lap.
“Wow, we will definitely take that result,” Verstappen said. “Of course to come from last to second is very good and when I woke up this morning I definitely didn’t expect this result. To finish where we did with the penalty we had, we didn’t lose as many points as we could have so as a team we did a really good job.
“It was a crucial call to change to the inters (intermediate tires), it was really slippery on track and we made a great decision with the timing and took the right lap to pit. A lot of things can happen when you’re starting from the back of the grid, especially on the first lap when other cars are fighting each other, but we stayed out of trouble, kept it clean, and managed our race very well.”
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz started second and finished third. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), who recovered from a grid penalty that saw him start 16th, rounded out the top five.
Fernando Alonso came home sixth for Alpine, with Norris coming home seventh.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by two points in the title race.