Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes deserves the credit for the tire call that enabled him to take his 100th victory by winning the Russian Grand Prix.
Lando Norris had led the majority of the race and looked set for his first win, but the McLaren driver opted to stay out on track as rain fell in the closing stages, trying to finish the race on slick tires. Hamilton had been stuck behind Norris for the final 15 laps and originally agreed with the race leader and so stayed out when told to pit, but with four laps remaining he switched to intermediates and heavier rain handed the Mercedes driver a milestone victory.
“Firstly I can’t take credit for that amazing decision, that was the team’s,” Hamilton said. “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 (Turn) 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.”
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Hamilton believes Norris will win multiple races in Formula 1 despite missing out on his first in Sochi, as McLaren also came close to winning back-to-back races.
“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, 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. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Despite hitting three figures in terms of victories, it wasn’t as productive a day for Hamilton as it could have been from a championship perspective, with Max Verstappen going from 20th to second.
“Wow, to come from last to second is a huge effort,” Hamilton added. “The Red Bulls are so fast. They’ve been quickest for pretty much most of the year. They’ve done a great job. To come from last, to have two penalties or whatever it was and to come back to second, that’s mega damage limitation.”