Late Drama in Sochi! Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix

Written by Hafiz Akbar, edited by Harshi Vashee 

The beaches and resorts of Sochi were once again witness to an exciting Russian Grand Prix. Qualifying didn’t go so well for title contender Lewis Hamilton, who had an absolutely torrid qualifying session. His W12 slid all over the place (even into the pit wall at one point), which only got him 4th place to start from. The front three is a surprise (but a welcome one, for sure) as Lando Norris takes home the first pole of his career, with former teammate Carlos Sainz in the scarlet red Ferrari lined up alongside. Hamilton’s future teammate, George Russell started from 3rd in his Williams and showed his quality and perseverance. Max Verstappen, who’s taking a brand-new power unit, started from dead last.

The start of the race is sure to be a talking point. Norris got away so quick, but Sainz was equal, if not quicker, than the young Briton. Sainz ended up leading the race coming into the first braking zone at turn 2 and retaining the lead for another 13 laps. Norris showed his excellent competitive maturity by snatching back the lead and extending it, getting away from Sainz who ended up pitting earlier in an attempt at an undercut.

For the others, the start was quite eventful as we see Hamilton, starting from 4th, drop down to 7th just behind Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile, in the other Mercedes-powered car, Lance Stroll went up 3 places, effectively swapping places with Hamilton. Verstappen was having his attempt at the last-to-first challenge by some popular YouTubers in real life, starting from 20th and was 13th by lap 9. Mercedes’ plan to hold Verstappen back almost backfired since Valtteri Bottas didn’t put up a significant fight to keep the Dutchman at bay. He was overtaken by lap 6. 

Almost all of the pit crew had a mare of slow pit stops, everyone from Sainz, Ricciardo, to even Sergio Perez experienced some sort of difficulty regarding the “green light” switch that needed to go on before the driver was allowed to get away.

About the tyre wear, some drivers complained about not having grip on the tarmac. Due to the heavy torrential rain the day before, the rubber raced surface of the track was wiped clean of all rubber. This created some difficulties for drivers to brake and gain traction, which is why Sainz locked up coming into the first braking zone at turn 2 on the start. But Norris, who initially reported graining, said that by lap 25, the graining was clearing up.

From lap 25, the race was pretty much dead, apart from a heated battle for 1st place by Norris (who is yet to win his first race) and Hamilton (who was looking for his 100th win). This would go on for some time until lap 46, when Russell reported rain at turn 5 and 6. Norris was asked for his opinion to change to intermediates, but the young lad refused and kept on going with his hard-compound tyres. Hamilton also refused to take intermediates but after further tactic-making by the team tactician, he pitted on lap 49 and took on intermediates as Norris went on to slip and slide like “Bambi on Ice,” said David Croft. Norris went on to lead the grand prix until lap 51, where he overshot the turn and went to the run-off, only for Hamilton, now on inters, to take him over. Meanwhile, Verstappen also took the poor young man and from that point on, his decision to not take inters would prove to be his downfall. He finished in 7th after leading the race for 38 laps.

The highlight of the race goes to Max Verstappen. Verstappen had an absolute overtaking masterclass in this race. The Dutchman started from dead last and finished second best, overtaking 18 drivers on the grid, including his own teammate, Perez.

Meanwhile, in the more controversial side of things, Lance Stroll came into contact with not one, but two drivers in the race. The two drivers being Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel, who unsurprisingly didn’t finish in the points, placing 13th and 12th, respectively

Anyway, after a dramatic and exciting last couple of laps in Sochi, Lewis Hamilton wins the 100th race of his career and cements himself as one of the all-time greats of Formula 1 history. Max Verstappen, with a superb drive from last, will take home second and Carlos Sainz, the man who was signed as the second driver for Ferrari, takes the third place spot on the podium.

The Drivers’ Championship is heating up, with 6 races to go (subject to each country’s COVID policy). Currently, Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen by 2 points. The Constructors’ Championship still got Mercedes leading the way, 33 points clear of Red Bull in second place. The fight for third is also picking up, as Ferrari hasn’t recovered from their loss back in Monza, where McLaren did a historic 1-2 for the first time since 2012 (back when Hamilton was still a McLaren driver).

Formula 1 will return next week in the skating rink that is the Istanbul Park. Until then, do watch other series like the British F4 Championship, which we recently covered, or the GB3 Championship and watch our star boy Roman Bilinski show his racecraft. 

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