Lewis wins the Russian GP and completes 100 F1 victories | Russian GP Analysis
Round 15 of the Formula 1 2021 season came to an end at the Sochi Autodrom with Lewis Hamilton taking his 100th F1 victory. The race was tricky from the start and things took a turn when it started to rain in the final five laps of the race. Those who changed tyres in the right window were awarded and drivers like Lando Norris, who was leading the race after starting from pole, failed to change his tyres at the right time and ended up losing the lead and nearly shunted his car after losing control. Speaking of control, Max Verstappen had a damage control race after starting from the back of the grid due to a Power Unit (PU) change. But after a stellar drive and timely decision to change tyre compounds, Max was able to carve his way through the field and come second. With that said, let us look at the five key points from the Russian GP.
1. Lewis Hamilton’s 100th F1 victory
If there was ever a G.O.A.T in the modern F1 world, then that mantle has to be given to Lewis Hamilton. With a hundred victories under his belt, Lewis Hamilton becomes the only F1 driver to achieve such a feat. But what’s more interesting is how he achieves this 100th victory.
Lewis started from P4 on the grid after an error in tyre choice during qualifying. And his start was not the best as well. On the opening lap, the Brit lost three places and it looked like he was out of contention for the race win. But as the race progressed, Lewis started to claw back his gap to the lead car and with a few remaining laps, he was close enough to pounce on Lando Norris.
But just as the rain hit the track in the closing laps, Hamilton changed the tyres in the correct window and was able to win the Russian GP. His driving and the attitude he carries with himself, truly makes him one of the G.O.A.T’s of Formula 1.
2. Max Verstappen’s charge from dead last
Max Verstappen had to start the race from dead last on the grid after having to change his power unit. This did not put him in a good place regarding his fight with Lewis Hamilton in the championship title fight.
As the race started, Max put the pedal to the metal and started to make his way through the field carefully. But as he made his way to the top ten, his tyre life degraded and all he could do was to maintain the position he gained through the charge.
But things turned around for Max with the arrival of the rain. Red Bull Racing was one of the first teams to react to the rainy conditions and Max was one of the first cars to change to Intermediate rain tyres. This gamble paid dividends for him as he got to cut through the top 10 and finish the race in P2. This second-place finish helps Max to remain in striking distance for the title fight with Lewis.
3. Lando Norris’ failed gamble
Lando Norris was performing well throughout the Russian GP. He showed the pace of his Mercedes powered McLaren during all the practice sessions and the efforts translated into his first pole position in F1 during qualifying.
As the lights went out, Norris had a good start but was overtaken by Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari in turn 1. But Lando kept his cool and recovered the lead as it progressed. Things were working out well for the McLaren garage as Lewis Hamilton was far away from being a threat and Norris had Daniel Ricciardo behind him as a buffer for any potential threat.
But Hamilton had caught up to a one-second gap behind Norris during the later stages and the pressure started mounting on the McLaren garage. And to make matters worse, it started to rain in the last five laps. Lando, even after McLaren’s request to pit him, tried to gamble the remainder of the laps on dry tyres but the rain poured hard, it made driving impossible for young Lando to keep competitive pace. In the end, after a near accident moment on the track, Lando switched into the Intermediate rain tyres to complete the race. Lando crossed the checkered line in P7 but could have easily won the race if he made the correct choice at the right time.
Lando Norris was also reprimanded by the FIA for cutting the pit lane line when he pitted for the Intermediate tyres.
4. George Russell’s run to a points finish
George Russell was one of the key highlights from the qualifying session at Sochi. With the surprise rain during the end of the Q3 session, George was the first to switch to the Intermediate rain tyres and put in a lap that saw him and Williams Racing get P3 in the session.
Moreover, the young Brit also managed to keep the position during the race start. He was being competitive during the first half and was also able to keep the rest of the pack behind him. But things changed after his first pit stop.
Post the pit-stop, Russell had to manage a race pace that could see his tyres through the second stint and for that, he dropped down the order and was potentially driving for a P8 finish. Even though Russell didn’t put a wrong foot throughout the race, he was overtaken by two other drivers during the later stages and ended the race with a P10 finish.
This is yet another point that Russell earned through sheer determination and hard work on the track, and now we wait for 2022, where he will drive for Mercedes.
5. The Mercedes 100 per cent win streak continues
Things were not looking bright for Mercedes as the weekend at Sochi went underway. Their top driver, Lewis Hamilton crashed the car on multiple occasions during the Q3 session and managed a P4 start for the race.
In the race, Valtteri Bottas started the race from the back of the grid after a PU swap and Lewis dropped positions on the opening laps. Things turned potentially worse for Mercedes as, by mid-race, Red Bull’s Verstappen and Perez were right behind Lewis in the hopes of pouncing on the Brit.
But things changed for Mercedes during the final few laps of the race as the rain started pouring over the Sochi Autodrom. The Brackley based team was one of the first on the grid to react to the changing conditions and quickly got their drivers in and put them on the Intermediate rain tyres. This gamble paid dividends as Lewis finally got the lead of the race from Norris due to the early switch and Bottas was able to carve his way from P15, all the way to P5.
With the victory, Mercedes was able to keep their 100 per cent record at Sochi and also extended their lead in the constructor’s championship over Red Bull.
With a thunderstorm filled Sochi behind us, Mercedes-AMG F1 leads the championship with 397.5 points while Red Bull Racing trail with 364.5 points. McLaren Racing at P3 has also extended their gap to Scuderia Ferrari and now the points difference between the two stands at 17.5 points. In the driver’s championship, Lewis Hamilton leads with 246.5 points but Max trails by just two points. Round 16 of the 2021 Formula 1 season will take place in Turkey on October 10. Stay tuned to evo India for everything Formula 1!