Sir Lewis Hamilton celebrated his centennial race win in Russia after rain caused chaos in the final few laps.
To begin with, the Sochi Autodrom was dry, warm, and drivers were on slicks ready to attack.
As the drivers sped off the line, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the lead of the race into turn two after polesitter Lando Norris provided him with an excellent slipstream out of the long gradual turn one.
However, Hamilton, who started fourth got boxed into turn one and was forced out of any overtaking opportunities and ended up 7th after lap 1.
From the back of the grid Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were making easy work of the midfielders and had already made it into the top 15 by the start of lap 10.
Sainz out front had an early 2 second advantage over Norris but that would only last until lap 13 when Lando out braked the Spaniard heading into turn 13, finessing his way into the lead.
After taking first place, Norris had it all under control, talking calmly over the radio and setting consistently fast lap times to sustain his position.
Norris pitted on lap 29, McLaren opting to switch the youngster onto the hard compounds and hoping for a one stop strategy then the victory. The pit stop was efficient and fast unlike Ricciardo, who was unfortunately hit with a slow stop due to the new safety regulations surrounding automation in the pit stops.
Perez took over the lead of the race while Norris came out 4th. Hamilton pitted two laps prior to Norris and was continuing strong pace down in P7.
The race remained reasonably quiet on track with drivers trying to take care of their tyres and make it to the end of the race without having the rain pull the plug on their one-stop strategies.
Once lap 47 arrived patches of precipitation were beginning to form and the mayhem had begun.
Lando Norris was in the lead with Hamilton following close behind. The pair were equally affected by the rain as they slid together through turn 5 with Norris exiting wide and Hamilton correcting some oversteer.
As the rain intensified and the tarmac became slipperier by the second, both Aston Martins came together in a bizarre team incident. Lance stroll seemed to have slightly lost control while the two cars completed a corner together only for Stroll to push Vettel gently into the barrier.
Complete disaster was diverted as there was no damage sustained and the two cars continued on. But, the rain was starting to inflict devastating last lap situations.
Lap 49 would become the “make or break” moment as Norris’s McLaren engineers asked for his opinion on changing to intermediates to which he confidently replied: “NO.”
Hamilton on the other hand showed where and why his experience and wisdom were one of his key features as he pitted to change onto the intermediates.
The rain only got worse and Norris really began to struggle. His car was floating, rather than turning, on the wet tarmac.
Behind him Hamilton exited the pits with a 25 second gap to Norris. It took him less than two full laps to catch up to the McLaren and on lap 51 Norris’s fate was decided.
Hamilton took the lead as Norris’s car became undrivable. The McLaren driver went straight as he tried to navigate turn 6.
Frustratingly, Norris admitted over the radio that it was time to switch to intermediates but had made the unfortunate decision too late.
Hamilton went on to win his 100th Grand Prix while Max Verstappen made it to 2nd from the back of the grid and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz came home 3rd.
Changing tyres during the start of the rain was a critical decision for the teams and it seemed those who kept a closer eye on their weather radars were able to adapt in time.
Norris was unable to grab his first ever win in Formula 1 but still managed to come home 7th while claiming his first pole position, the fastest lap, and the fans awarded him driver of the day.
It was heartbreaking for the young Briton but Hamilton’s reaction was timed perfectly and he showed why he has won 100 races in Formula 1.
With his win, Hamilton reclaimed the top spot in the drivers standings and is now just 2 points ahead of Verstappen.
Here are how the drivers finished:
Featured image source: twitter.com/LewisHamilton