“Lewis, we can win this race,” were the words from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Lap 30. Wolff opened up on the radio as the Briton cruised past Stroll and Sainz for P6. Gasly was up next. Then Hamilton was up to P5 on Lap 31, with Grand Prix leader Lando Norris just eight seconds ahead.
He was right you know. 🙏 https://t.co/F3i3c8bzQU— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 26, 2021
The Norris-Hamilton battle was on: the two drivers duelling for the lead and just a second apart. It looked like it would be a straightforward race between them until the very last lap. That was, until the 70% rain forecasts proved to be correct.
Umbrellas started being opened on the grandstands just over five laps from the chequered flag. To pit for the intermediates or not to pit? That was the question.
Hamilton continued to chase, resisting calls to pit to inters as others around him switched to the green-banded rain tyres. Eventually, with the rain intensifying and with just three laps left, he finally took the plunge, emerging well behind Norris. The McLaren driver was still leading but, unlike the Hamilton, he was still on slick tyres.
The rain tumbled down, the gap between Hamilton and Norris shrinking by the corner, and then came the moment that changed the race: Norris slid off the track on the penultimate lap. His hopes of a maiden win disappeared in the cruellest possible way.
Welcome to the 💯 club, LH. 👊 pic.twitter.com/wrexBagxfr— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 26, 2021
As for Hamilton, he duly took the lead and held it for the last lap for his 100th Grand Prix win.
“It’s taken a long time to obviously get to [win number] 100 and I wasn’t even sure whether or not it would come".
“I just want to say a big thank you to all these fans; we’ve got such a great crowd here. I know it’s not been the best weather but what a race it has provided. So a big thank you to everyone in Russia for having us,” said Lewis after the race.
Then, he had a few words for Norris who, visibly shaken, went to congratulate him.
“Lando did such an amazing job. He had incredible pace, he’s doing such a great job for McLaren, and it was very bittersweet obviously to see my old team ahead – they’re doing so well, obviously, they won the last race – they’re doing fantastic, obviously powered by Mercedes”.
"Obviously the team made a great call right at the end. I didn’t want to let Lando go and of course, I didn’t know what the weather was doing but I’m incredibly grateful to all these men and women that are here and back at the factory because, wow, 100.”
The Russian Grand Prix has historically been a Mercedes’ fortress and so it was today. With victory #100, Sir Lewis Hamilton is now leading the championship by two points over contender Max Verstappen.
Mercedes, on the other hand, are 33 points ahead of Red Bull. In two weeks at the Turkish Grand Prix we will see how the battle for the win will unfold.