Lewis Hamilton has become the first driver to win 100 grands prix, after winning in Sochi this afternoon.
Starting from fourth on the grid and slipping further back after the start, the reigning world champion bided his time through the first part of the race, conserved his tyres, and emerged behind race leader Lando Norris after the first set of stops.
A fight for victory looked to be on, but the arrival of rain, ten laps before the end, forced teams and drivers to make a crucial decision on tyres.
Hamilton switched to intermediates, while Norris stayed out on slicks. He barely managed to slide round for a further lap before spinning off, as Hamilton took the lead.
The Mercedes driver crossed the line first, for the hundredth time in his F1 career, also taking the lead in this year’s championship.
It has taken a long time to get to 100 and I wasn’t even sure whether it would come,” he said immediately after the race, his answer interrupted by a congratulatory hug from Norris. “The team made a great call at the end. I didn’t want to let Lando go, but it was the right call.”
Hamilton said that he would have struggled to get past Norris withouth the rain and paid tribute to the disappointed Mclaren driver. He also thanked Angela Cullen, his physiotherapist, for treating the neck pain he suffered when Max Verstappen’s Red Bull landed on his car at Monza.
Before the race, Hamilton acknowledged that he had been stuck on 99 wins for an unusually long time — for him; his last victory having come at Silverstone, five races ago.
“It will come when it comes,” he said. “But of course I’ll be giving it absolutely everything chasing that number 100. It’s a big number. It seems like it’s taking longer than ever before to get it. But it’s a pretty cool number to wait for…”
Hamilton became the most successful Formula 1 driver by wins last year in Portugal when his 92nd grand prix win took him past the record previously held by Michael Schumacher.