Lewis Hamilton became the first Formula One driver to win 100 races with victory in the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday to retake the championship lead from Max Verstappen. (More Motorsports News)
Hamilton dropped to seventh place but fought back and passed Lando Norris for the win. “It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and at times, I wasn’t sure it would come,” Hamilton said. It was Hamilton’s fifth win of the season and his first since the British Grand Prix in July.
“It’s a magical moment,” Hamilton said. “I could only have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive with such phenomenal talents this late in my career.”
Hamilton turned Verstappen’s five-point championship lead into a two-point lead of his own after the Dutch driver finished second after a dramatic drive from last on the grid. After his tough start, Hamilton started moving up with a tough overtake around the outside of Fernando Alonso, a duel with echoes of their season as teammates when Hamilton was a rookie in 2007.
Verstappen started last after a penalty for an engine change but sliced through the field and had Hamilton in sight by the halfway stage. Hamilton’s Mercedes worked better on the hard tires in the second half of the race.
But then the rain came and Verstappen switched to intermediate tires early, allowing him to claim an unexpected podium finish and limit the damage to his hopes of a first title.
“We didn’t lose so many points today, so that’s really, really good,” Verstappen told his team over the radio. It doesn’t take much rain to make a difference in Sochi, where the flat track means water is slow to drain away.
If not for the rain, Hamilton said, “it would have been tough to get past Lando. He had great pace.” Norris had been aiming to give McLaren back-to-back wins after Daniel Ricciardo took victory at the last race in Italy when Hamilton and Verstappen collided.
Hamilton has now won the Russian Grand Prix on five of eight occasions, and his victory Sunday continues a clean sweep of victories in Russia for Mercedes cars.