* Norris was leading the race, the storm left and he got lost
The procedure for the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix had a deserved winner like Lando Norris (McLaren). But it was on lap 47th that construction collapsed for the McLaren driver: a storm suddenly hit the Sochi Autodrome with only six laps to go and everything suddenly changed.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was the great beneficiary of that rain, since he was the winner and reached his 100 victories in the Maximum, beyond taking over the top of the current tournament. But a Max Verstappen (Red Bull) who started in the last position of the grid and was marching by the seventh position when the first drops were announced also smiled with the climate change: he was second.
Until the rain hit the circuit, Norris had done everything right: he had started from pole positions and, although he lost his place to Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) at the start, he quickly regained the lead of the race. He made his stop at the 29th turn when he put on hard tires to get to the end of the competition. The quick stop allowed him to return to the track in fourth position and those who preceded him had not yet completed their entry into the pits.
The 21-year-old Briton resumed command and Hamilton was left behind. In the last 15 rounds, Lewis began to close the gap to Lando: Hamilton was trying to drop the second away to activate the DRS. Neither expected what would come next. The excitement grew as Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) reported on the radio that drops began to fall in one of the curves.
The rubber changes at the end were decisive. Mercedes did a great job. In the picture, Valtteri Bottas, which earned him finishing fifth (REUTERS / Yuri Kochetkov)
In the absence of six laps, a few drops began to fall on the Russian circuit and Norris was able to maintain the first position despite the fact that in one of the curves he passed. But the light drizzle turned into a powerful rain and on lap 48 the Mercedes team called him to Hamilton to change the tires for a wet floor compound, but the seven-time world champion did not enter. From the race control, they decided to deactivate the DRS because of how dangerous the track was.
While Norris held on to the track, Hamiltón abided by his team’s command on lap 50 and that would be the key to his triumph. He put intermediate tires for rain and returned 25 seconds away from the McLaren driver, who was also warned from his box that he should stop to change tires because the water was already seriously affecting his handling possibilities. Norris noticeably slowed down and showed difficulties to stay on the track, despite that he bet to stay the last three laps as the leader. He was wrong.
Daniel Ricciardo, one of those who entered to change his tires in the middle of the storm at the end (Photo: Reuters)
Hamilton began to reduce the gap with Norris, who was left with dry tires and lost grip on his car due to the water that accumulated on the track. A turn later, Lando was thrown off track and Lewis captured the lead. The McLaren racer went from first to eighth, but on the last lap he advanced one position and finished seventh.
The context was chaotic with the wet track with several drivers entering the pits where the traffic was incessant. Of course, getting there was an odyssey for the runners trying to stay on the asphalt as they could. Others also finished against defenders like Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), who nevertheless was able to complete the race (11th).
* The summary of the exciting race
As a reference to the madness that was experienced in the last rounds, in the 44th turn – when George Russell reported that the first drops fell – the first ten positions were: Lando Norris (1), Lewis Hamilton (2), Carlos Sainz (3 ), Daniel Ricciardo (4), Sergio Pérez (5), Fernando Alonso (6), Max Verstappen (7), Lance Stroll (8), Charles Leclerc (9) and George Russell (10).
When everyone crossed the finish line there were multiple changes of positions in the top ten: Hamilton (1), Verstappen (2), Sainz (3), Ricciardo (4), Bottas (5), Alonso (6), Norris (7), Raikkonen (8), Pérez (9) and Russell (10).
The qualifier on lap 47 when it started to rain harder (left) and the final grid after Hamilton’s triumph (right)
Undoubtedly, the most benefited was Verstappen who started last due to the engine change penalty and although he advanced to seventh place, the incidents at the end allowed him to win another five places (he advanced 18 in total), something fundamental thinking about the championship and although he lost command, he was only two units from Hamilton.
There are seven dates left to finish the season and each point is worth gold. The same strategies and making the right decision at the right time. Hamilton can attest to this, who ended up obeying his team’s call to change tires and earned him his hundredth victory in the Máxima.
Historic: Lewis Hamilton won a dramatic Russian GP and reached 100 victories in Formula 1 Hamilton reached 100 victories in Formula 1 and is now going for an “impossible record” of Juan Manuel Fangio