Experience told at the Russian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton stormed to a famous 100th race victory while the youthful exuberance of Lando Norris cost him a first-ever F1 win.
- Hamilton claimed his 100th win after Norris spun off in Sochi rain
- Norris chose not to pit for wet tyres in slippery conditions
- Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finished a disappointing fourth after a bad pit stop
Norris had looked every bit like he was going to win the race from roughly lap 13 to the finish until a terrible decision in the closing laps cost him dearly.
With fewer than 10 laps to go, Hamilton was close to Norris but being held at bay as the rain started to come in Sochi.
And while Hamilton pitted for intermediate tyres, albeit disputing the team decision, McLaren asked Norris if he wanted them.
“What do you think about an inter, Lando?” came the question over the team radio.
“No,” was the emphatic answer from Norris.
It was the wrong one.
Two laps later and Norris, who had been skating around the track, could barely control his car while Hamilton was taking time in large chunks and Norris eventually slid towards the wall.
“[I am] devastated in a way,” Norris said after the race.
“They thought I should box and I decided to stay out … I made the decision, I thought it was the way to go.
Ricciardo said he could not speak for teammate Norris but said he felt pitting for intermediate tyres was the right decision.
“It wasn’t even a question for me,” Ricciardo said
“For me it was clear and in hindsight … one lap earlier.”
Hamilton cruised to victory from Red Bull championship rival Max Verstappen, who stole into second from starting at the back of the grid in a tremendous drive.
“The team made a great call at the end and I am incredibly grateful to all the team here and back in the factory,” Hamilton said.
“Lando would have been tough to get past but then the rain came and it was opportunistic.”
Hamilton called it a “dream result” for Verstappen and Red Bull and the Dutchman knew it.
“Luckily the rain helped us to make that last jump,” Verstappen said.
Carlos Sainz filled out the podium for Ferrari from Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.
Ricciardo was also likely cost a podium by a team mistake from McLaren as Norris faded to finish seventh.
Norris dominant all day apart from end
It was a horrible finish for Norris as a first-ever victory eluded him.
Norris had pole position but surrendered the lead to Sainz on the opening lap and while those two duelled up front, the train built behind them.
George Russell in his Williams held up the likes of Lance Stroll, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Sergio Perez, which led to Mclaren telling the Australian “plan B” over the team radio on lap eight.
Back in the field, Verstappen began his charge as he passed several cars within the opening 10 laps including the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
And while that was all happening, Norris took the lead on lap 13 as he passed Sainz down the back straight, the pace of the McLaren simply too much for the Ferrari.
Pit stops were triggered on the same lap as both Stroll and Russell pitted early to try and undercut their rivals.
It was a strategy that ultimately failed.
McLaren fails Ricciardo in the pits
While they came out into plenty of air, Norris, Ricciardo and Hamilton stayed out.
Ricciardo was the first to pit on lap 23 but any advantage he may have had was negated badly when McLaren failed to give the Australian a good pit stop.
The result was Ricciardo gave up time to Russell before passing him but he lost out badly to Hamilton.
In contrast to McLaren, Mercedes were slick with Hamilton, the Brit staying out four laps longer than Ricciardo and managing to pass him due to the faster pit stop.
Norris stayed out another lap and unlike Ricciardo’s stop, McLaren got it right for Norris, who came out six seconds ahead of theoretical second on the track Sainz.
Hamilton, Stroll, Ricciardo and the flying Verstappen were next in the queue.
Ultimately though, the difference between Hamilton and Ricciardo shook out when the Mercedes star was close enough to take Sainz on fresh tyres and put a 20-second gap on the pair.
As that happened, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff came over the team radio and told Hamilton he could do what he has done so many times: “Lewis, you can win this race”, Wolff said.
The words were prophetic as Hamilton did what he does best and claimed a famous century of race wins.