The Formula One Russian Grand Prix looked fully sorted for McLaren’s Lando Norris, who handily led the race until the final five laps, when rain began to fall and Norris opted to stay out on his slick tires. After running wide, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was able to pass by and take a victory margin of almost a full minute. Championship contender Max Verstappen took second after starting at the rear of the grid in what was a fully stunning drive. Hamilton, though celebrated his 100th race victory — the only time in F1 history that a driver has scored that many wins.
With countless penalties to start this weekend, the rear of the grid was just as stacked as the front, and after a previously soaked weekend, race day dawned dry. To make matters worse, on the formation lap, Max Verstappen reported a draining battery that did seem to rectify itself before the start.
Polesitter Lando Norris led right off the bat, but Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. quickly took the lead with George Russell just behind. The slipstream was a serious benefit for Sainz. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was left to battle Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, and Lance Stroll. Hamilton dropped to seventh on the start. It was a little questionable, though, with several drivers cutting corners on their hunt for position.
Despite his battery worries before the start of the race, Max Verstappen made quick work of the field in front of him, quickly battling his way past competition like Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to hit 12th place by lap 10.
On that same lap, Lando Norris had pulled up close behind Sainz; he wasn’t able to make the pass immediately, but he retained his close battle just behind the Ferrari. It took three laps before Norris was able to make that pass for the lead and begin to open up a small gap between himself and the Ferrari. Verstappen, meanwhile, made a pass on Sebastian Vettel.
On lap 14, George Russell’s Williams pitted for fresh tires from third place and brought him back out on the track just behind Lance Stroll in 15th place. The hope was that an undercut would filter Russell out to the front of the field. Sainz then followed for a pit stop on lap 15; the team was slow on the rear left, which was a detriment to the speed of his stop.
On lap 23, Mercedes sent its crew out as if they intended to change tires, which sent Daniel Ricciardo into the pits to counter him. He lost three or four seconds due to a slow stop, and Mercedes proceeded to put its tires away. Meanwhile, Verstappen was reporting an inability to steer the car. Hamilton pulled into the pits on lap 27 after locking up, and Verstappen followed soon after with a slightly slower stop. Two laps later, race leader Norris headed into the pits. It was a far more efficient stop than that of his teammate, and he came out of the pits behind Charles Leclerc, who had yet to pit.
As we hit lap 37, most drivers had made a stop, which filtered Lando Norris back to the lead of the race. But Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes had crept up to the front of the pack, too, and was just over three seconds behind Norris with the time dropping with every lap.
With six laps remaining in the race, the projected sprinkle of rain began to fall. Norris ran wide as the drivers ran near the seafront where the rain had fallen the hardest, seeing the McLaren driver run wide. Hamilton very nearly got past him, but Norris held him off. Neither driver pitted for intermediate tires, though it was a serious consideration — but Hamilton maintained within DRS zone.
As it got wetter, Norris ran wide again, and Hamilton fell back. All drivers were tiptoeing around the track, and several of the drivers farther back down the field swapped for intermediates. Race control disabled DRS as Norris weaved his way around lapped traffic. Hamilton proceeded to fall back farther and farther. McLaren advised Norris to come in, but Norris disagreed and stayed out. Hamilton, however, stayed out with four laps left. As long as Norris hung on, he could lose up to six seconds per lap and hold onto the win. But Mercedes advised that more rain was coming, so it was a matter of who had made the right strategy call. Meanwhile, other drivers were colliding and spinning all over the track.
With more rain coming, Norris slid off the track and lost his first place position to Hamilton. The intermediates had proved to be the right call as more rain fell during the last several laps. To make things worse for Norris, he tried to stop for intermediates for the final laps and lost control into the pit lane, earning him a penalty.
As it turned out, Hamilton took victory, followed by Verstappen and Sainz. Hamilton became the first ever driver to win 100 races in F1 and the first to score a total of 4,000 points in his F1 career. It was another solid finish for George Russell as well, who took yet another points-scoring finish with his 10th place.
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
- Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
- Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
- Lando Norris (McLaren)
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
- George Russell (Williams)