Lewis Hamilton finally claimed his one-hundredth victory at the Russian Grand Prix in one of the races of the season, where the last seven laps at the Sochi Autodrom saw a sudden dramatic downpour! Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished a miraculous fifth.
It is a day Hamilton will never forget and a race the fans won’t forget for a very long time, as Hamilton and his team timed the switch from Slicks to Intermediates perfectly, unlike qualifying, with only a few laps remaining.
Hamilton who started fourth actually made a poor start, by the second corner the British driver was down to seventh and stuck in a DRS train led by George Russell. The Seven-time world champion slowly moved his way through the field, as those ahead of him made very early pit-stops, unlike Hamilton who was one of the last few medium runners to stop.
A key moment of Hamilton’s race came on Lap 23 when Daniel Ricciardo, whom Hamilton was batting for third, made his stop. It was a poor stop by the Mclaren F1 Team, meaning that after setting some fast lap times in clean air, Hamilton had enough of a gap to pit on Lap 27 and come out ahead of the Australian and be in a theoretical second place behind race leader Lando Norris.
Hamilton closed the eight second gap to Norris rapidly but struggled to get inside DRS range, the Mclaren driver was superior in the final sector gaining back a few tenths every lap. Hamilton remained patient and followed Norris for a number of laps, and then the heavens began to open.
With seven laps to go spits of rain started falling at Turns Five and Six but not enough for Intermediate tyres, Norris ran off at both corners on seperate laps in the closing stages. The heavens then completely opened, resulting in Mercedes ordering Hamilton to box whereas Norris risked it all and stayed out on slicks. Hamilton thought the team made the wrong call.
He will be grateful they called him in, as within the space of a lap, the track was fully wet leading to any driver left on the Slicks to slide off the circuit as spray filled the air. Hamilton on the Intermediates cruised past a heartbroken Norris, to claim his one-hundredth victory under exceptional circumstances.
After a difficult qualifying Hamilton can’t believe he has finally gotten his one-hundredth win and is incredibly grateful to his team for getting him to this point.
“Wow… 100! It’s taken a long time and I wasn’t even sure the 100th would come! 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.”
“The rain saved it for me” – Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas must have been doing a rain dance in the closing stages of the grand prix, the Finnish driver was having a shocking race until the rain came. Bottas after starting sixteenth due to another power unit change, struggled to make any places throughout the race. By the time the rain arrived Bottas was down in fourteenth place, the Mercedes driver struggled to make places whilst in a DRS train virtually all race.
Bottas was one of the first to make the switch to the Intermediates, a call which ultimately saved his weekend. Whilst others struggled braving the Slicks, Bottas made heaps of time meaning that when those remaining on Slicks pitted, Bottas overtook them all. It all meant that by the time he crossed the line he found himself in fifth, a miraculous recovery considering where he was the majority of the race.
Bottas was quick to congratulate Hamilton on his one-hundredth victory in what was a tough race for the Finnish driver.
“Firstly, congrats to Lewis on the win and his 100th victory. From my side, it was a difficult race and not an easy day, but the situation at the end with the rain saved it for me. Before that, I was struggling to progress through the field. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be, because I just couldn’t follow through the corners – I was getting big understeer.
“I couldn’t carry the speed and get close enough to overtake, and other cars were finding it easier to follow closely. Then the rain arrived, I wanted to stop one lap earlier but the team wasn’t quite ready, but we were still one of the first cars to stop, which was good. I managed to climb up the order and score some good points, which is positive after a tricky day.”