‘Incredibly grateful’ F1 champ Hamilton thanks fans after winning his 5th Russian Grand Prix to seal 100 career victories (VIDEO)
Lewis Hamilton earned a late 100th F1 victory in a dramatic Russian Grand Prix, celebrating in Sochi for the fifth time after torrential rain denied the impressive Lando Norris a maiden win.
In soaking conditions that threatened to emulate the thunder and lightning which delayed qualifying, 21-year-old Norris was minutes from victory despite rain beginning to batter the track with eight laps to go.
The McLaren prodigy's decision to persist with slick tyres meant he suffered an agonizing finish, failing to even make the podium as Hamilton hauled his way past from the back of the grid, leapfrogging arch-rival Max Verstappen at the top of the standings.
"I want to say a big thank you to all the fans – it's such a great crowd here," Hamilton beamed to fellow British Formula One champion Damon Hill on Sky Sports afterwards, lauding the 30,000 punters who filled the Autodrom to half-capacity by the Black Sea.
HAMILTON TO THE LEAD!!A massive downpour in the final laps of the Russian GP sees Lando Norris' first F1 victory slide away. pic.twitter.com/MrTpV4UKXU— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 26, 2021
"I know it's not been the best of weather but what a race we provided, so thank you for backing us. It's taken a long time to get to 100 [wins] and I wasn't even sure whether or not it would come."
Norris, who spun before finishing seventh, overcame his heartbreak to share a warm handshake and embrace with Hamilton as the seven-time champion spoke in the setting where he has won on three of his last four visits.
"Lando did such an amazing job," said Hamilton. "He had incredible pace. He's doing such a great job for McLaren and it's very bittersweet to see my old team ahead and doing so well. They're doing fantastically.
LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE RUSSIAN GP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/CVFNma9R2e— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 26, 2021
"I'm incredibly grateful to all these men and women who are here and back at the factory."
Verstappen had started at the back because of an engine penalty and looked thrilled with the result at a circuit where Mercedes has traditionally been dominant.
Norris shunned the chance to be given intermediaries while his more established rivals made decisions to switch that paid off handsomely, with prophetic Verstappen charging through to finish second, having been seventh before the downpour.
Lewis Hamilton is the first driver in F1 history to win 100 races! 👏 pic.twitter.com/jer87pVwJB— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) September 26, 2021
"At one point it was really slippery and I think we decided to pit at the right time," he said after he ended the day two points behind Hamilton, setting up a tantalizing final six races of the season.
"To come from last to second is very, very good. When I work up this morning, I definitely didn't expect this result."
Carlos Sainz Jnr – the leader at one point – finished third, with Norris teammate Daniel Ricciardo fourth and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who won the race in 2017 and 2020, fifth.
Home racer Nikita Mazepin finished 18th on another difficult day for Haas, with teammate Mick Schumacher failing to finish.Also on rt.com Tornado caught on camera over Sochi as F1 Russian Grand Prix practice is scrapped... but Hamilton is skipping in the rain (VIDEO)