Lewis Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix after a bizarre final phase ravaged by unexpected rain showers. As a result, the Mercedes driver leads the 2021 championship again and wins his hundredth GP in spectacular fashion. Max Verstappen came in second and was able to limit the damage in the World Cup. Carlos Sainz completed the podium on the Sochi Autodrom tarmac .
At the start Sainz initially lost second place to George Russell, but the slipstream allowed him to come back and the Spaniard was first in Turn 2. Norris dropped back to second place, while Hamilton also had a terrible start. Stroll, Fernando Alonso and Ricciardo all had a better start, as a result of which the Mercedes driver dropped back to seventh place.
Mercedes tactics completely fail, Verstappen passes Bottas
In the second lap Hamilton managed to pass Alonso again. The Englishman did that in the long left turn of turn 3 on the outside. In turn 4 he was on the inside and so Alonso had to acknowledge his superior in Hamilton. Verstappen in the meantime rose to fifteenth place on lap four. Bottas was the man for him on the track at the time.
And with the first best attempt, the Red Bull driver overtaken the Finn. In the thirteenth corner, Verstappen braked a bit later than Bottas and managed to pass on the inside without too much trouble. For example, the Dutchman was in fourteenth place in round six. Two laps later, Verstappen passed Pierre Gasly in the same spot, although the Frenchman seemed to give even more space than Bottas.
Norris takes over from Sainz, Verstappen extremely strong
Meanwhile, Norris was chasing Sainz and on lap ten the McLaren driver was inside his good friend’s DRS window. Still, it was not possible to pass in the second corner to take over first place. Verstappen overtook Charles Leclerc on the same lap for P12, but almost rammed him from behind. The Ferrari driver was in a duel with Sebastian Vettel and had to anchor early, almost causing a crash between the youngsters in Turn 7.
Norris passed Sainz on lap 13. The Englishman overtook the Spaniard on the outside of Turn 13 and took the lead of the race. The two had been in the lead the whole time, but Norris’ action did not affect the difference of almost ten seconds. One lap later Sainz decided to go in for a set of hard tires. He dropped back to 11th place, behind Bottas and ahead of Stroll. The former still had to make a pit stop, Stroll had already made one.
Verstappen ended up in a good phase between laps fifteen and twenty. The Dutchman set the fastest lap time three times and with a 1:40.178 on lap eighteen he clocked times that were about one and a half seconds faster than Hamilton’s. That was not very strange, given the seven-time world champion invariably drove behind Ricciardo throughout the race. There was simply no way for Hamilton to pass McLaren . Ricciardo went in for a tire change on lap 22, but it failed completely. The stop lasted almost ten seconds and he came back on track behind Esteban Ocon.
Hamilton and Verstappen in at the same time
Hamilton and Verstappen went into the pit lane on lap 26 to make a tire change. Hamilton went to the hard tires, while Verstappen went to the medium tires. The Mercedes driver dropped back to P9, while Verstappen had to make do with twelfth place. Ricciardo and Russell were the two drivers in between, but on lap 28 Verstappen passed the Williams driver with the DRS after Turn 1.
Norris had his pit stop two laps later and, like Hamilton, went to the hard tires. He dropped back to fourth, but the three men in front of him had yet to stop. This is how the McLaren talent kept the virtual lead. Sainz and Hamilton were virtually in second and third place. Verstappen was virtually in sixth place, as Stroll and Ricciardo were in front and had already made a tire change.
Hamilton’s strong phase begins
The thirtieth lap of the race was one in which Hamilton sat down for a while. In turn 2, the 36-year-old already passed Sainz for virtual second and in turn 13 he even passed Gasly. The fastest lap time came for Hamilton with a 1:38.244. A lap later, the Mercedes driver again set the fastest lap, this time with a 1:38.009.
On lap 38, on the other hand, things went wrong for Verstappen. With the help of the DRS, Alonso was able to pass the Red Bull driver just before turn 2. As a result, Verstappen dropped back to seventh place, instead of the Dutchman being able to overtake Sergio Pérez for fifth. The podium already seemed out of sight, but even achieving a place in the top five now seemed to be increasingly difficult for Verstappen.
Norris chased by Hamilton
Hamilton chased race leader Norris in the final phase. On lap 44, the Mercedes man was just over a second behind his compatriot’s McLaren. In the meantime, Pérez passed Ricciardo for P4, but it also started to rain lightly in Sochi. On lap 47 Norris briefly went off the track in Turn 6, but there were no major consequences. Pérez overtook Sainz for third place in the meantime.
Still, it became more difficult on the asphalt, the rain got worse and several drivers switched to the intermediates. Hamilton also dives in, Norris stays outside and after the pit stops has a big gap compared to the British driver. Hamilton is a lot faster than Norris with three more laps on the counter, in the meantime ‘heavy rain’ is reported by Verstappen.
Chaos in the rain in the final laps
The rain kept going, it was impossible on the slicks. Norris shoots off, Hamilton takes the lead and Verstappen also moves up to the podium. The Dutchman drives third, but soon has Norris’ P2 in sight through the British driver’s pit stop. Hamilton leads comfortably and also wins the race.
After an outlier for Sainz, it is ready, Verstappen can close in on second place and minimize the loss in points compared to Hamilton, although he has to give up the lead in the World Cup. Sainz moves up to the podium, Norris drops back to seventh position after his pit stop and saw his race literally and figuratively fall into the water.