7-Time World Champion Lewis Hamilton made more F1 history on Sunday, become the first driver ever to score 100 Grand Prix wins as he crossed the line first in Sochi.
The win also moved him ahead of Max Verstappen in the hunt for the 2021 F1 Driver’s Championship as that battle looks set to go down to the wire.
Hamilton was ecstatic at the end of the race, and was full of praise for the strategy call from his team who brought him in for intermediate tyres as the heavens opened.
‘It’s taken a long time to obviously get to 100 and I wasn’t even sure whether or not it would come. Lando did such an amazing job. He had incredible pace. He’s doing such a great job for McLaren. It was very bittersweet obviously to see my old team ahead. They are doing so well. They obviously won the last race. They are doing fantastic and obviously powered by Mercedes. It’s good to see them united again.
‘Obviously the team made a great call at the end. I didn’t want to let Lando go and of course I didn’t know what the weather was doing but I am incredibly grateful to all these men and women that are here and back at the factory, because, wow! One hundred!
‘Going to bed last night, obviously not that happy with the job I did yesterday. I watched the replay over and over again and there were subtle, subtle mistakes but just not ideal and I was so determined when I came in, when I woke up this morning.
‘I woke up with a bit of pain in my neck but Ange worked on it, she’s been fantastic the last two weeks. I couldn’t have done it without her. I was just determined to do the best job I could. It was tough. I lost a lot of ground at the start, just trying to stay out of trouble. Max must have done a really great job to come up to second from last, so yeah, we’ve got our work cut out.’
An Incredible Milestone For Lewis Hamilton
While Hamilton holds almost every record in the F1 book, being the first to 100 wins is a magical moment for the Brit, and one that can never be beaten.
‘It’s a magical moment. I could only ever have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive against such phenomenal talent this late in my career and to continue to build with Mercedes, of which I’m so proud of everything we’ve done, not only on track but also off, this is just a special moment for everyone that has been a part of it.
‘I’ve had the most incredible team. Back home in my little personal team at Project 44 and then obviously you’ve got Angela, you’ve got Ellen, you’ve got Omar my driver, you’ve got Lloyd who’s here with me, my security. Honestly there are too many to name, but ones that have been with me for 18 years. Just forever grateful to them for their continued support and belief in me. To my parents also. My dad… Even just last night, just the same as the first race I had or the first championship I fought in when I was eight, my dad called me last night and he has always been that one reassuring me and continuing to support me.
‘And as I said, there were moments where you didn’t even know that if it was going to happen. So, I feel incredibly grateful for the amazing support I have had. Especially to Team LH. Team LH Russia and all over the world they have been absolutely magical for so long. I couldn’t have done it without them.’
Amazing Strategy Call From Mercedes
With the race on a knifes edge in the closing laps, the Mercedes strategists made the gutsy – and correct – call to pit Hamilton for intermediate tyres. It was the telling move that finally delivered win 100.
‘Firstly I can’t take credit for that amazing decision, that was the teams. For me, I was very much in no man’s land for a long time. I didn’t really know where I was in the race. I had no idea how far Lando was ahead. I was just trying to set the best time every lap.
‘Once I got past one of the McLarens in my second stint, getting past people, chasing down Lando. They were incredibly quick all of a sudden. He was doing a really great job. Just in those last moments, it was slippery in 5 and a little bit in 7 but then everywhere else grip was pretty good. Lando went off I think in 5 on one lap and I was like ‘OK, OK, stay out, it’s most likely going to happen again, I’ll try to catch him out’.
‘Then they called me in and I was like: ‘Yeah, but he’s right there!’ I only had three laps to catch up 24 seconds, so it was like ‘no way’. So I wasn’t convinced the first lap. The next lap it rained more and I was definitely more convinced then, so I came in.’
Lando Norris Will Have His Day
After the race, Hamilton was seen consoling a heartbroken Lando Norris, however, he believes his compatriot will have plenty of days spent on the top step of the podium in the future.
‘He’s so young, he’s got so many more wins up ahead of him.
‘He did a fantastic job yesterday in the wet. He’s doing a great job leading that team, and look, McLaren won the last race, they’ve been very hard to beat for us all year, but yeah, just blind faith at the end there.
‘I put all my faith in my team and they called me in and I believed them – and that’s part of our journey together. It could have played out any way – but I think our team did a great job in terms of understanding where the rain was coming and it was going to get worse and they were 100% worse. Of course, I had to play my role to try to get us in that position in order for that to work. Team-work makes the dream-work.’
Championship Battle Rumbles On…
Although Hamilton and Mercedes would have hoped to further ahead after Russia, the stunning recovery drive from Max Verstappen kept the points gap close, and sets the scene for seven more titanic tussles before a champion is crowned.
‘There’s been plenty of races where we’ve not maximised, as a team, collectively, both drivers and everyone but we’re still in a fight and we can continue to improve.
‘There are definitely things that we will try and do better moving forwards but we just won’t give up, we’ll just keep trying, keep pushing, remain hopeful and just do the work.
‘Undoubtedly it’s going to be tough. I think, for two-thirds of the season so far they’ve had the edge.
‘However, it’s obviously been difficult with all sorts of things, curveballs sent to both of us and our teams.
‘There’s still everything to play for in these next races.
‘I think they’ve got a good set of circuits coming up and I anticipate or just continue to be really close between us.
‘Just got to be hopeful of some good races,’ concluded Hamilton.