Lewis Hamilton took his 100th Grand Prix victory in the 2021 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix that started in dry conditions and ended under the rain, the Mercedes driver making a late switch to intermediate tyres to take the lead when pole-sitter Lando Norris agonisingly slid out of the lead with just two laps left. Max Verstappen made it from P20 to P2, and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took third having started second.
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Grid penalties were the talk of the town on Sunday morning with Valtteri Bottas the latest to take the hit, Mercedes putting a new power unit into his car to see him start 16th with the knowledge that Max Verstappen would start 20th (having taken a new Honda engine earlier in the weekend) and Charles Leclerc 19th with a new Ferrari unit.
As for tyres, there was a mix of mediums and hards on the grid with the first five drivers – Norris on pole, Sainz second, Russell third, Hamilton fourth and Ricciardo in P5 – on mediums, and only Fernando Alonso starting sixth, Sergio Perez (P8), Pierre Gasly (P11), Bottas, Antonio Giovinazzi (P17), Leclerc and Verstappen starting on the hard compounds.
Although he fell to seventh at the start, Hamilton’s pace was competitive on his medium tyres and he pitted on Lap 27 for hards, before Norris – who had scored a sensational first pole on Saturday and duelled with Sainz early in the race – and once the pitstop sequences had finished by Lap 38 it was Norris leading a rapid Hamilton. The pair were just one second part in the closing stages. And then the rain hit.
Lead pair Hamilton and Norris stayed out after others pitted for inters and it was the Mercedes man who made the decision to pit first, switching with three laps left – as Norris stayed out, a first ever F1 victory almost within touching distance. The McLaren driver did his best to keep the lead but, with the rain getting heavier by the second, he eventually slid off the track and Hamilton passed him for P1.
Norris eventually finished seventh having pitted at the very end but will find himself at the mercy of the stewards after crossing the pit entry line twice on his way in.
Verstappen, from 20th on the grid, finished an incredible second after switching from hards to mediums midway through the race and cruising through the field. And it was Ferrari’s Sainz who took the final podium place – having briefly led over Norris – with an early switch to hards from mediums.
Valtteri Bottas started 16th but took fifth having pitted for mediums just after Verstappen, while Fernando Alonso started sixth and finished there with a long first stint on hard tyres. Kimi Raikkonen kept his cool to make up places in the late wet conditions and finished eighth – leaving Sergio Perez and George Russell to take the final points for Red Bull and Williams, respectively.
Norris came away with Driver of the Day honours, but the pain of having a maiden Grand Prix victory wrenched away from him in the final laps with the rain falling at Sochi, in what must go down as the most entertaining and dramatic Russian Grand Prix to date.
Mario Isola – Head of F1 and car racing at Pirelli commented:
After yesterday’s wet conditions, the rain held off until the final few laps – and it decided the 2021 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix outcome. Up until then, the drivers had made the most of dry conditions with maximum tyre freedom, as they could choose their starting tyres and they all had a full unused allocation of slicks. The ‘reset’ track following the rain led to a bit of sliding and graining at the start of the race, but this was soon overcome. The hard tyre’s resistance to abrasion proved very well suited to the conditions, with some very long stints of more than 35 laps, while the medium also did 28 laps in the hands of Lando Norris. Ultimately though, it was the intermediate tyre that made the difference, with the teams able to use their experience from a wet qualifying to extract the maximum performance from it when it mattered at the end.
2021 Formula 1 Russian GP Race Results
|1.||44||Lewis Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||1:30:41.001||25||246.5|
|2.||33||Max Verstappen||Netherlands||Red Bull Racing||+53.271s||18||244.5|
|3.||55||Carlos Sainz||Spain||Scuderia Ferrari||+62.475s||15||112.5|
|4.||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Australia||McLaren Racing||+65.607s||12||95|
|5.||77||Valtteri Bottas||Finland||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+67.533s||10||151|
|8.||14||Fernando Alonso||Spain||Alpine F1 Team||+81.321s||8||58|
|7.||4||Lando Norris||Great Britain||Mclaren Racing||+87.224s||7||139|
|8.||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Finland||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+88.955s||4||6|
|9.||11||Sergio Perez||Mexico||Red Bull Racing Honda||+90.076s||2||120|
|10.||63||George Russell||Great Britain||Williams Racing||+100.551s||1||16|
|11.||18||Lance Stroll||Canada||Aston Martin F1 Team||+106.198s||0||24|
|12.||5||Sebastian Vettel||Germany||Aston Martin F1 Team||+1 lap||0||35|
|13.||10||Pierre Gasly||France||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||66|
|14.||31||Esteban Ocon||France||Alpine F1 Team||+1 lap||0||45|
|15.||16||Charles Leclerc||Monaco||Scuderia Ferrari||+1 lap||0||104|
|16.||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Italy||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||1|
|17.||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Japan||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||18|
|18.||9||Nikita Mazepin||Russia||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||0|
|19.||6||Nicholas Latifi||Canada||Williams Racing||DNF||0||7|
|20.||47||Mick Schumacher||Germany||Haas F1 Team||DNF||0||0|
2021 Constructor Standings
|1.||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||613.5|
|2.||Red Bull Racing||585.5|
|5.||Alpine F1 Team||155|
|7.||Aston Martin F1 Team||77|
|9.||Alfa Romeo Racing||13|
|10.||Haas F1 Team||0|