29 August 2021 | Angelo Ziovas
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In what was an unexpected affair, the Russian GP offered up a great race in unpredictable race from start to finish. From a history making 100th grand prix win for Lewis Hamilton, to the heartbreak of losing for Lando Norris, and Max Verstappen coming from 20th on the grid to finish in 2nd place and Carlos Sainz grabbing his third podium of the season.
From the beginning of the race, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris battled for the lead, out of turn 2, Sainz came out with the lead with Norris in 2nd, Hamilton had dropped 3 places off the start, and Fernando Alonso went wide and had to take to the escape road but ended up in 6th, just behind Daniel Ricciardo who ended up behind Lance Stroll who followed George Russell who maintained his 3rd place, Charles Leclerc made a brilliant start jumping up to 12th place after starting 19th on the grid, Verstappen gained 3 places to start his race, Yuki Tsunoda dropped 8 places after a bad start on lap 1.
Throughout the opening laps, Sainz and Norris out front built a gap to the Williams of Russell behind, Sainz built up a little bit of a gap over Norris before it started to close which gave Norris some leeway to try and make a move happen, however he just couldn’t get close enough to do so. The gap built up again and came back down over the next few laps until eventually on lap 13, Lando Norris overtook his former teammate down the back straight and sealed the move in the braking zone and took over the lead of the race.
Russell pitted just one lap after and was overtaken by Stroll via Aston Martin using the undercut to get in front after being stuck behind the Williams for so many laps, and on the following lap Sainz came in and pitted, avoiding being undercut by Stroll and maintained being ahead of him after just coming out ahead. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Ricciardo stayed out a little longer.
Lap 23 saw Ricciardo pit, Hamilton took over 2nd and a slow stop from McLaren for Ricciardo caused him to come out behind Esteban Ocon, and lose time to Hamilton, giving him time to not have to worry about an undercut straight away. Hamilton, however, was going at a good pace, setting a couple of fastest laps and slowly catching Lando Norris, he did go on and pit on lap 27, Verstappen also pitted on the same lap, not being very far behind Hamilton. The championship contenders came out 5 seconds apart from each other with Ricciardo and Russell between them.
Sergio Perez was at the same point in the race, in 2nd place, still needing to pit, but still having a decent race, with Fernando Alonso doing a good job behind him and Leclerc doing well following three seconds behind him, but come lap 29, Norris came into the pits and came out in clear air behind Leclerc with an eight second gap and a five second gap behind to Pierre Gasly who had yet to pit.
On lap 30, Hamilton got himself up to the Ferrari of Sainz and overtook him, enabling him to continue his charge at Lando Norris who was still seven seconds ahead with Gasly still in the way, and was leading up to a crescendo come the end of the race. Then on the following lap down the back straight Hamilton passed Perez and looked very quick and on for a race win.
Throughout lap 31 Verstappen was on the back Ricciardo’s McLaren who ended up passing Stroll on the same lap, then on the main straight on the following lap, Verstappen got through. Lap 34 seen Norris ending the chase of Leclerc by overtaking him into turn 2 and completing the move around turn 3. Gasly also pitted on the same lap and dropped down to 16th after pitting.
Hamilton was edging ever closer to Norris on lap 35, by overtaking Leclerc, at this point the gap was 5 seconds, and with Hamilton looking quicker than Norris, felt like it was only a matter of time. By the end of the lap Leclerc finally pitted but ended up being a slow stop and ended up out in 13th ahead of Valtteri Bottas who was not having a good race this time out in Sochi, which was a bit of a surprise given his great record at the track.
The final drivers pitting for new tyres the first time was at the end of lap 36 with Perez and Alonso pitting, Alonso had a good pitstop but Perez had his pitstop slow and caused him to lose time to Alonso but still came out just ahead, this all caused both to come out either end of Verstappen which may have looked good for him, but a couple of laps later Alonso came up and overtook Verstappen, which lost his momentum he had gained throughout the race.
Lap 44 saw Perez finally get past Daniel Ricciardo who he was stuck behind for several laps at that point, at the same time, Hamilton and Norris were still fighting over the lead with Norris just keeping Hamilton at bay who had caught up a few laps earlier. But then on lap 47, rain was starting to fall which seen Norris go off a little bit on the exit of turn 5, he maintained the lead, but it may have been a precursor on what was to come.
Lap 48, and Perez passed Sainz to get into third, into the podium places, but with the rain starting to come down, decisions were needing to be made upon whether to switch to intermediates or stay on slicks. But very soon by the end of lap 48, DRS was disabled, and drivers were starting to switch tyres, giving the leaders a gamble that needed to be made. The following lap, more drivers came into pit for inters, Verstappen, Sainz and Ricciardo among them.
The end of lap 49 proved crucial for the race as Norris stayed out on slicks and Hamilton came in for inters. Then on lap 51, the rain proved too much for slick tyres as the track was now very wet and caused Norris to drift off the track at turn 5 and Hamilton took the race lead as going onto inters proved to be the right call. And with all the drama that went on Max Verstappen ended up making his way through the field to get into third and then overtake Norris who had to slowly make his way to the pits on the slicks.
Through all the drama in the end, Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas ended up winning out in this whole thing with Sainz ended up 3rd and Bottas in 5th, and so ended up being a good day fro Mercedes and a difficult one for McLaren. So in the end, the podium places ended up being Hamilton in 1st, Verstappen in 2nd and Sainz in 3rd. With Hamilton making history notching up his hundredth win in Formula 1, in what was an enthralling race from beginning to end.
It was heartbreak for Lando Norris but ended up getting the point for fastest lap and still did end up in the points but what an incredible race he drove, and he will get that first win soon enough. Ricciardo, Bottas, Alonso, Norris, Raikkonen, Perez and Russell ended up rounding out the top ten with Stroll, Vettel, Gasly, Ocon, Leclerc, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda and Mazepin making up the finishers of the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.
Mercedes have the lead in both championships, with Hamilton taking back the lead of the drivers championship, and Mercedes extending their constructors’ lead, meanwhile the battle for third still goes on as McLaren and Ferrari are 3rd and 4th with a 17.5 point gap between the two with Alpine, Alpha Tauri, Aston Martin, Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas as the rest of the order, with Haas still yet to get a point. And in the drivers’ championship, 2 points separate Hamilton and Verstappen going into the Turkish GP. Mercedes have also continued their 100% win record in Sochi.
1 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES
2 Max Verstappen RED BULL
3 Carlos Sainz FERRARI
4 Daniel Ricciardo MCLAREN
5 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES
6 Fernando Alonso ALPINE
7 Lando Norris MCLAREN
8 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO
9 Sergio Perez RED BULL
10 George Russell WILLIAMS
11 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN
12 Sebastian Vettel ASTON MARTIN
13 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI
14 Esteban Ocon ALPINE
15 Charles Leclerc FERRARI
16 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO
17 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI
18 Nikita Mazepin HAAS
DNF Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS
DNF Mick Schumacher HAAS