LEWIS HAMILTON claimed his ‘magical’ 100th Formula One victory on a heartbreaking day for Lando Norris at the Russian Grand Prix.
Norris led for the majority of the race after his first career pole but it all went horribly wrong when heavy rain fell in the closing laps of the race.
Lewis Hamilton has his 100th F1 winCredit: AFP
He produced a stunning late display to snatch victoryCredit: Getty
Heavy rain denied Lando Norris his maiden F1 winCredit: EPA
Mercedes pitted Hamilton against his will in second place for intermediate tyres but Norris’ gamble to stay out didn’t pay off, as he spun in the slippery conditions with two laps remaining.
Max Verstappen had a remarkable recovery drive as he fought from the back of the grid to finish second, meaning he trails Hamilton by just TWO points in the championship.
He said: “It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and I wasn’t sure it would come. It’s a magical moment.
“I could have only ever dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to be able to win these races and get to drive with such phenomenal talents, this late in my career.
“Lando did such an amazing job, he had incredible pace and is doing such a great job for McLaren.
“It was bittersweet to see my old team ahead and they’re doing fantastically.
“The team made a great call right at the end. I didn’t want to let Lando go and I didn’t know what the weather was doing.
“I’m incredibly grateful to all these men and women here and back at the factory.
“Going to bed last night I was not the happiest with the job I did yesterday. I watched the replay and they were subtle mistakes but not ideal.
“I was so determined when I woke up this morning and I was determined to just do the best job I could.
“Max must’ve done a really great job to come up to second from last. We’ve got our work cut out.
Hamilton congratulated Norris on a superb performanceCredit: Reuters
“It would’ve been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn’t been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic.”
Norris was just two laps away from becoming Britain’s youngest ever F1 race winner before the heavens opened.
The McLaren star was beside himself after he helplessly spun off in slippery conditions while his rivals all pitted for intermediate tyres.
Norris, 21, said: “I don’t know where to start. I’m unhappy, devastated in a way. We made a call to stay out and we stand by that call.
“It was the wrong one at the end of the day but I made the decision just as much as the team.
“It was more that they thought I should box and I decided to stay out. It was my decision, I thought it was the way to go. But it’s just a bit of heartbreak.
Norris’ wait for a maiden triumph continuesCredit: Getty
“I felt like I did everything I could, even when it got a bit tricky at the end. I made a couple of mistakes but still kept Lewis behind and managed to pull away a little bit.
“A bit of luck like the laps I was out before Lewis boxed was perfectly fine for the tyres I was on and I got told the rain was going to stay the same amount.
“Had it stayed the same amount we had the right decision, but it obviously got a lot wetter than we as a team expected.
“When it’s only two laps to go, when there are 20 to go you’re maybe not as aggressive with decisions.
“We did what we thought was right, which I’m happy with. It was wrong at the end of the day but everything until then the guys did an excellent job.
“I’m happy with everything apart from that one decision which we’ll review and try not to make again.”
Max Verstappen defied the odds to finish secondCredit: Getty
Verstappen started at the back of the grid after having a new engine fitted and Red Bull went into the race with a mindset of damage limitation.
The Dutchman had fought his way up to seventh before the downpour and Red Bull brought him into the pits at the perfect time as he leapfrogged his rivals up into second place.
Verstappen, 23, said: “With the penalty we had, to only lose one spot is definitely not too bad.
“When I woke up this morning I definitely didn’t expect this result.
“From the back, a lot of things happened on the first lap and first stint. We managed all of that very good and the crucial call to go to the inters worked out.”
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.