Russian Grand Prix 2021 - Lewis Hamilton hails Mercedes after securing his history-making 100th win in the wet at Sochi
After the rain began to fall at the Sochi Autodrom, Hamilton came in while Lando Norris stayed out. It proved a crucial decision as Norris slid off the track and out of contention on an increasingly slippery Sochi surface. Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen fought to secure second from the back of the grid in an outstanding performance.
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on September 26, 2021.
It was cruel for Norris, who eventually came home in seventh, but Hamilton was full of praise for his team as they enabled him to move back ahead of Max Verstappen in the Drivers' Championship standings.
"It's taken such a long time to get to 100 and I wasn't sure it was going to come," a relieved Hamilton said after the race.
"The team made such a good call at the end. I didn't want to let Lando go. I am incredibly grateful for all the men and women here and back in the factory.
"It would have been tough to get past Lando unless he made a mistake. And then the rain came, and we were very opportunistic - the team did a great job. I am grateful for the result."
Lewis Hamilton celebrates with his Mercedes team after winning the Russian Grand Prix 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
The only blot on Hamilton's day would have been the performance of his tile rival in the Red Bull.
Verstappen produced an outstanding drive to fight back from last on the grid to eventually finish second after being the first to change to the grippier pieces of rubber.
It minimised the advantage gained by Hamilton despite a brilliant win, and the British driver admitted it showed what a contest the battle for the world title could be.
"I was not the happiest with the job I did yesterday," Hamilton said of his qualifying performance. "There were subtle mistakes. I was so determined this morning. I had a bit of pain in my neck, but I was just determined to do the best job I could.
"Obviously Max must have done a great job to come up to second from last so we've got our work cut out."
SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with second placed Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2
Image credit: Getty Images
Verstappen, meanwhile, admitted his battling performance surprised even him, with the Dutchman also grateful to his team.
"It was pretty tricky on the in-lap to make the call to go to inters. I think we made the right call - it was really, really slippery. If I had pitted one lap earlier we would have destroyed the inters.
"To come from last to second is very, very good. It wasn't easy to pass but luckily the rain helped us to make that last jump.
"With the penalty, to only lose one spot is definitely not too bad. When I woke up this morning I definitely didn't expect this result."
The Formula 1 season continues with the Turkish Grand Prix on Sunday 10 October.