Russian GP: Lewis Hamilton wins 100th F1 race as devastated Lando Norris sees victory slip away

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Russian GP: Lewis Hamilton wins 100th F1 race as devastated Lando Norris sees victory slip away - AFP
Russian GP: Lewis Hamilton wins 100th F1 race as devastated Lando Norris sees victory slip away - AFP

A devastated Lando Norris was reduced to tears after seeing a first Formula One victory slip through his fingers at the Russian Grand Prix. Following the first pole position of his career, Norris was on course to take a fabulous maiden win, before losing the lead of a dramatic race with just two laps remaining.

While those around him stopped for wet tyres, Norris took the bold, but ultimately misguided, decision to stay out and nurse his McLaren over the line. “No,” yelled Norris when race engineer Will Joseph asked for his verdict over whether to take on the intermediate rubber.

On lap 49 of 53, Mercedes called Lewis Hamilton in –against the seven-time world champion’s wishes. Hamilton emerged from the pit lane a quarter of a minute behind Norris with four laps left. But he soon demolished the difference and when Norris, 21, slid off at the fifth corner on lap 51 of 53, the McLaren driver’s dream of becoming Britain’s youngest F1 winner was over.

Norris took the chequered flag in seventh, 87 seconds behind Hamilton. Max Verstappen drove from last to second, with Carlos Sainz third for Ferrari. “I don’t know where to start”, said Norris.

“I’m unhappy, devastated. It is heartbreaking. It is a terrible feeling to be on the verge of winning a grand prix and then losing it, not because of a silly error but in this kind of way.

“We made a call to stay out and we stand by that. It was the wrong one at the end of the day, but I made the decision just as much as the team. They thought I should box and I decided to stay out. It was my decision, I thought it was the way to go. But the rain got harder than I was told or the team knew. We will need to go talk through that.”

Lando Norris finished the race in seventh place - GETTY IMAGES
Lando Norris finished the race in seventh place - GETTY IMAGES

Norris sportingly stopped to offer his congratulations to Hamilton. “I sympathise with Lando,” said Hamilton, who moved two points clear of Verstappen in his bid for an eighth title. “He is so young. He has so many wins up ahead of him. He did a fantastic job, he is doing a great job leading that team.

“For me, it was just blind faith at the end. When the team called me in I was like, ‘Lando is right there and there are only three laps to catch up 24 seconds, there is no way I can do that’.

“I wasn’t convinced the first lap I left the pits, but the next lap it rained more and I was definitely more convinced. The team were 100 per cent right. I had to play my role to get us in that position in order for that to work, but teamwork makes the dream work.”

At the start, pole-sitter Norris flew away from his marks, but the young British star knew he would be vulnerable on the 350-metre charge to the first braking zone, and so it proved. Sainz, benefiting from the slipstream off Norris’s McLaren, was dragged along at more than 210mph before passing his former team-mate for the lead. Hamilton started fourth, but was seventh by the end of a lacklustre opening lap.

The Mercedes driver was blocked by Norris at the first corner, losing out to Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton fought his way past Alonso the next time around to move up one spot, before spending the remainder of the opening exchanges tucked up behind Ricciardo’s McLaren.

Up front, Norris was keeping Sainz honest and on lap 13 he passed the Ferrari man for the lead. “Got him,” said Norris over the radio.

On lap 22, McLaren called in Ricciardo and Hamilton was released into clear air, 14 seconds adrift of Norris. Four laps later, Hamilton stopped for fresh rubber before team principal Toto Wolff came on the radio to provide his superstar driver with a rallying call. “Lewis, you can win this race,” the Austrian said.

Hamilton cleared Sainz and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly before setting out to hunt Norris down. Norris stopped on lap 28 and emerged from the pits eight seconds clear of his compatriot. With early leader Sainz now out of the picture, the stage was set for a straight shoot-out between the man chasing his maiden win and the driver bidding for a 100th career triumph.

By the start of lap 38, Hamilton could sense victory, just 1.5 seconds behind Norris’s McLaren – but the younger Briton was demonstrating a level of maturity way beyond his tender age to keep Hamilton, 14 years his senior, behind. However, the late rain changed the run of play. Ricciardo took fourth, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Alonso.

'Incredibly grateful' Hamilton hails 'magical' 100th F1 victory

By Phil Duncan

Lewis Hamilton hailed his 100th victory as a "magical moment" following another extraordinary afternoon of drama at Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, 21, looked set to knock Hamilton off his perch as the youngest Briton to win a Formula One race after a composed and mature drive at Sochi's Olympic Park.

But the McLaren star was cruelly denied his first triumph when the arrival of rain with just seven laps remaining turned the race on its head.

Norris stayed out on slick rubber, but the gamble backfired. Hamilton stopped for wet tyres, and crossed the line 53 seconds clear of rival Max Verstappen to bring up his landmark win, 14 years and 108 days after his first triumph in Montreal, Canada in just his sixth race.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP hugs Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP hugs Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

"It has taken a long time to get to 100 and I wasn't even sure if it would come," said 36-year-old Hamilton.

"It is a magical moment. I could only have dreamed of still being here, to have this opportunity to win these races, and to drive with such phenomenal talents this late on in my career."

"I am so proud of everything we have done with Mercedes, on and off the track, and this is a special moment for everyone that has been part of it.

"My dad called me last night and he has always been that one to reassure me and to continue to support me. I feel incredibly grateful for the amazing support that I have had."

Hamilton's magnificent century of wins takes him two points clear of Verstappen in the title race with seven rounds to go.

Verstappen, thrown to the back of the grid with an engine penalty, drove from last to second to limit the damage to his championship rival.

"I was so determined when I woke up this morning to deliver the best performance I could," added Hamilton, who started fourth and then dropped to seventh after the first lap.

"Max must have done a great job to come up from last to second so we have got our work cut out. But there is nothing I can do about who is behind me and that is a dream result for him.

"For two thirds of the season Red Bull have had the edge. It has been difficult with all sorts of curveballs sent to both of us, and our teams, and there is still everything to play for. I anticipate that it will just continue to be really close between us for the rest of the year."

Russian Grand Prix, as it happened

02:22 PM

Okay, that's it from me

Thanks for joining me. That is by far the best Russian Grand Prix since we started coming here in 2014. This season might even be the greatest in my living memory... another fantastic, dramatic weekend and there is now only two points between Hamilton and Verstappen in the standings. I think both men will head into Turkey pretty happy with how things finished, perhaps Verstappen more so.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, second placed Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Lars Baron - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, second placed Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Lars Baron - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

02:09 PM

Christian Horner speaks to Sky Sports F1

"It could have gone either way. Max benefited massively, Checo missed out significantly. For Max in the drivers' – damage limitation it's fantastic, for the constructors' we've conceded points."

02:04 PM

Norris actually went over to Hamilton during his post-race interview

02:03 PM

Lando Norris speaks to Sky Sports F1

I don't know where to start. Obviously unhappy.. devastated in a way. I guess we made a call to stay and and can stand by that call. Obviously it was the wrong one. They decided I should box and I decided to stay out. I thought it was the way to go...

I don't think it changes too much. I think I had the confidence beforehand. Just a bit of heartbreak, you know. I felt like I did everything I could even when it got tricky at the end. Before Lewis boxed it was perfectly fine, the tyres I was on.

I'm happy with basically everything apart from that one decision, which we will review.

01:57 PM

Hamilton reacts to his 100th F1 win

What an achievement. It's been a tricky season for him so far and yesterday was especially tricky. Not to mention the first part of the race. But he had the pace when he needed it.

01:54 PM

Updated constructor standings

01:50 PM

Updated driver standings: Hamilton retakes the lead... by just two points

Top 10:

01:49 PM

That's a third Ferrari podium for Sainz this season

Following second in Monaco and third in Hungary. Has driven well all season. That move from McLaren isn't looking too bad after all.

Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

He led the race in the opening laps but then had to stop early and was not looking at a podium. So should on balance be pleased with that.

01:45 PM

Of course, no guarantee that Norris would have won even had gone onto intermediate tyres

But, man, that was hard to watch him spin off and lose it like that. After being in the lead for so long. I think he probably would have held off Hamilton in the dry. The biggest mistake was probably McLaren listening to Norris rather than telling him to go onto the inters.

01:40 PM

RUSSIAN GP: CLASSIFICATION

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. SAI

  4. RIC

  5. BOT

  6. ALO

  7. NOR

  8. RAI

  9. PER

  10. RUS

  11. STR

  12. VET

  13. GAS

  14. OCO

  15. LEC

  16. GIO

  17. TSU

  18. MAZ

OUT: LAT MSC

01:40 PM

Norris will probably drop back further due to that pit entry snafu

He was telling his team it was fine and it looked fine... until it wasn't. The rain was only going to get worse and, of course, it's always harder as the leader. And always looks bad when you take the wrong decision. Especially when the rain is as heavy as it was at the end.

01:38 PM

100 Grand Prix victories

He had to wait a little while for it, but it was worth waiting for, I reckon.

01:37 PM

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX!

He will retake the championship lead, but I think on balance Red Bull will be pretty happy with that after Verstappen started from the back and came home to finish second.

Carlos Sainz third, Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

Lando Norris finishes in seventh and gets the fastest lap point. Not really a just reward for his efforts this weekend, but there you go. That's racing.

01:35 PM

FINAL LAP

What a crazy, crazy race. Lewis Hamilton is about to win his 100th race and Max Verstappen is going to finish second. This has worked out very, very well for Red Bull given Verstappen's engine penalty.

You have to feel for Norris. McLaren are going to be kicking themselves for not bringing Norris in. He might still have lost it then but... I dunno. It's hard. Anyway, Hamilton is kept patient and also did not put foot wrong all race. A superb performance.

01:34 PM

Lap 52 of 53 - Hamilton leads Norris and Verstappen

But Norris is going to come into the pits to change for the right tyres, which will put Verstappen up into second.

Ahhh man, absolute heartbreak for Norris. He did so little wrong all weekend and all race. That's gutting. Absolutely gutting. He's going to pick up a time penalty as well as he crossed the pit lane entry and then came back in...

Top six:

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. SAI

  4. RIC

  5. BOT

  6. ALO

01:31 PM

Lap 51 of 53 - Norris is slipping and sliding around the final sector

He has 14 seconds between himself and Hamilton. I am not sure he can keep this going. He's on the wrong tyres! He's going to lose this race. There's loads and loads of spray in the middle sector...

Norris is going to lose the lead here and maybe even worse...

He spins and drops down the field... Hamilton takes the lead and now Verstappen is up into third...

"It's full wet..." he says. Ahhhhhh man.

01:29 PM

Lap 50 of 53 - Norris leads Hamilton

Here's the top 10...

Norris looks fine on these tyres at the moment.

  1. NOR

  2. HAM

  3. ALO

  4. PER

  5. LEC

  6. VET

  7. VER

  8. SAI

  9. RIC

  10. GAS

Hamilton came out in second as he had such a gap to the third place man beuhind him. Now Alonso is up into third ahead of Pérez! He hasn't stopped, neither has Pérez. Where did that happen?!

01:27 PM

Lap 49 of 53 - Hamilton is coming in?

He is told to... But he doesn't! Norris didn't stop either. Why didn't Hamilton come in? Thinking that he had more to lose? I think this could be a mistake from both leading men...

Vettel and Stroll come together! But keep going.

The gap is two seconds... Ricciardo and Verstappen come in, as does Sainz. Norris still leads.

Who is winning this one? Lap times have dropped off into the 1:54s...

Norris says he's fine on dry tyres...

Norris stays out but Hamilton pits for intermediates...

01:25 PM

Lap 48 of 53 - It's wet in the middle part of the track

But dry in other parts. This is an absolute nightmare.

Pérez gets Sainz for third! Hamilton has started to drop back here. I think they have to box for inters. It's way too wet in the middle of the track... it is only going to get worse...

Verstappen doesn't stop! Why not?!

01:23 PM

Lap 47 of 53 - The rain is coming!

Hamilton has closed right up! Norris runs wide and Hamilton nearly takes the lead...

Oh my... nobody has blinked for intermediates yet.

Hamilton gets DRS into the pit straight this time...

01:22 PM

Lap 46 of 53 - "Spitting quite a bit," Norris says

Where is this race going? I don't know. We usually get a downpour within 10 minutes of the chequered flag. But not today...

Let's see how heavy the rain gets and how much it affects conditions.

"Be ready with inters," is Sainz's message. We've still got seven laps to go...

01:21 PM

Lap 45 of 53 - Pérez gets Ricciardo and moves up into fourth

Sainz is the next man up the road for him, 3.4s away. He moved from a very long way back and made it stick with a bit of tough driving. Decent race for him.

UMBRELLAS UP IN THE CROWD! Here comes the rain... but how heavy is it? Even a moderate sprinkling could be tricky.

01:19 PM

Lap 44 of 53 - George Russell says spots of rain at turn 10

Is there another twist in this race? Hamilton is harrying his countryman and again does not get DRS heading onto the pit straight. The McLaren just seems to pull away in the final sector.

01:17 PM

Lap 43 of 53 - Is the rain coming in?

It's getting darker over the paddock and in the pit lane.

Norris still leads, the gap is now very close to a second, though. Hamilton can't really get close enough through the final sector... yet.

01:16 PM

Lap 42 of 53 - Wonder if Hamilton is saving battery charge

The gap has stabilised. Pérez maybe closer to Ricciardo than he has been before but it seems to be a big ask for him to get through. Verstappen 1.1s behind Alonso. Ideally what Red Bull want to happen (barring any disasters for Hamilton etc) is for Pérez to get Ricciardo, Verstappen to get Alonso and then Ricciardo – they can then switch positions at the end to give Verstappen fourth.

01:13 PM

Lap 41 of 53 - Norris leads Hamilton by 1.6s

Hamilton a couple of tenths quicker that time around. Pérez within a second of Ricciardo and on much fresher tyres. It doesn't work for him in turn two but can he make something in turn three or four? Nope...

George Russell doing well and running in the points again.

01:12 PM

Lap 40 of 53 - Norris sets the fastest lap

Putting three tenths into Hamilton... can Lando hang on? His hard tyres are a couple of laps younger and fresher.

01:11 PM

Lap 39 of 53 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. NOR

  2. HAM +1.829

  3. SAI +23.727

  4. RIC +25.534

  5. PER +26.446

  6. ALO +30.086

  7. VER +31.167

  8. STR +32.616

  9. RUS +38.683

  10. OCO +38.894

Pérez would probably be third without that slow stop. Even more frustration for Red Bull.

01:09 PM

Lap 38 of 53 - Alonso takes Verstappen for sixth

Wonder if Pérez should have let him by?

Norris has Hamilton within two seconds... I can't see anyone but Hamilton winning this race now. Mind you, Hamilton really struggled behind Ricciardo in the first stint, so maybe not...

It was looking quite good for Red Bull in the first stint but now not so much.

Hamilton sets another fastest lap...

01:08 PM

Lap 37 of 53 - That's a baaaaaad pit stop for Pérez

8.9 seconds! That's a six-second cost. That's a gut punch... he put in a brilliant first stint. He came out ahead of Verstappen, who he will surely let by. Pérez's chances of contending for the podium may have disappeared.

01:06 PM

Lap 36 of 53 - Norris closing up on Alonso in second

Hamilton is told he has good pace. He does. Pérez finally pits from the lead and so does Alonso, which puts Norris back into the lead. Hamilton is just 3.3s behind...

01:05 PM

Lap 35 of 53 - This isn't really working for Verstappen at the moment

His first stint was superb but he is losing time in the dirty air and can't find a way through Danie Ricciardo. Hamilton sets another fastest lap and overtakes Charles Leclerc in the process. He's flying...

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on September 26, 2021. - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the Formula One Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in Sochi on September 26, 2021. - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Charles Leclerc stops bit it is a slow one. 4.8s. That is going to cost him three places. Or even more. He comes out only just ahead of Bottas and in 13th.

01:03 PM

Lap 34 of 53 - Norris gets Leclerc to move third

Leclerc yet to stop but I don't think he will be too long away from doing so.

Perez in the lead but yet to stop still has pretty decent pace, not far off the pace of Lando Norris. I am not sure Pérez can win this race but who knows what the time difference will be once he stops. He is a master at looking after his tyres and has done so here.

Hamilton has closed to within nearly four seconds of Norris.

01:01 PM

Lap 33 of 53 - Verstappen is now the one losing time behind Ricciardo

Just as Hamilton did in the first stint.

Mick Schumacher becomes the first retirement as he is told to bring the car in. I think the last 10 laps here could be thrilling to the max.

12:59 PM

Lap 32 of 53 - Verstappen gets Stroll after Ricciardo overtook the Canadian a few corners before

Stroll was the first to stop and is now on older hard tyres. Hamilton sets another quick lap a 1:38.009. Verstappen is now back to eight or nine seconds behind Hamilton.

Pérez could possibly be in with a chance of overtaking Hamilton at the end of the race on his current strategy. He would now come out about five or six seconds behind him and on fresher and softer tyres.

12:58 PM

Lap 31 of 53 - Top 10 and gaps

Top three have yet to stop. Hamilton the quickest man on track.

  1. PER

  2. ALO +5.408

  3. LEC +8.815

  4. NOR +12.989

  5. HAM +20.152

  6. GAS +25.277

  7. SAI +26.240

  8. RIC +27.390

  9. STR +28.556

  10. VER +28.898

12:56 PM

Lap 30 of 53 - Hamilton takes Sainz for sixth!

He is then told "Lewis, you can win this race!" by Toto Wolff. Hamilton then gets Gasly for fifth before the lap is over. He's 8.2s behind effective race leader. Okay.

I wonder if Pérez can play a part in this. He still has good pace on his hards and if he can go long he will have much fresher medium tyres than his competitors.

12:54 PM

Lap 29 of 53 - It's a tidy stop from McLaren for Norris

Pérez now leads from Alonso but Norris comes out in clean air in fourth, about seven or eight seconds behind Leclerc. Bottas also comes in which gets him out of Hamilton's way...

Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

The rain has not really materialised, by the way. Verstappen now sets a very fast lap time! A 1:38.396. Is he going to try and clear Hamilton on this stint or will he two-stop? Or both...

12:52 PM

Lap 28 of 53 - Pérez showing some good pace on 27-old lap hards

He has just dipped into the 1:39s. That's 1.4s quicker than the leader. Hamilton going well on fresh tyres. Verstappen takes Russell to move up to 11th. Verstappen went onto the medium tyres whilst Hamilton went onto the hards.

Norris to stop at the end of this lap, from the lead. Crucial pit stop coming up. Hamilton now in the dirty air behind lance Stroll and Valtteri Bottas.

In comes Norris...

12:50 PM

Lap 27 of 53 - Hamilton pits from second, Norris still leads

It's a pretty tidy stop. Verstappen stops as well, though it looks a bit slower. Sainz makes a move on Bottas to move up to sixth. Bottas is yet to pit. Where will they all shake out? Hamilton comes out ahead of Ricciardo, the man who seemed to hold him up greatly in the first stint. A slow stop cost the Australian.

12:48 PM

Lap 26 of 53 - Half distance

So here's the full order. Norris leads Hamilton by 11.9s. His lap times are dropping back a bit now as he locks up and misses the apex at turn two. Verstappen not making too much of an impression into Fernando Alonso.

  1. NOR

  2. HAM

  3. PER

  4. ALO

  5. VER

  6. LEC

  7. VET

  8. GAS

  9. BOT

  10. SAI

  11. STR

  12. RUS

  13. RIC

  14. OCO

  15. RAI

  16. GIO

  17. LAT

  18. TSU

  19. MAZ

  20. MSC

12:46 PM

Lap 25 of 53 - Hamilton sets the fastest lap

He's the first man to go into the 1:39s. Doing some good lap times in the clean air.

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the race - REUTERS
Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the race - REUTERS

Verstappen is told there's not much space for him to be brought into the pits now.

12:45 PM

Lap 24 of 53 - Hamilton finally in clean air

Here's the updated order, top 15:

  1. NOR

  2. HAM

  3. PER

  4. ALO

  5. VER

  6. LEC

  7. VET

  8. GAS

  9. OT

  10. SAI

  11. STR

  12. RUS

  13. RIC

  14. OCO

  15. GIO

Verstappen's tyres are starting to go off. "I can't turn the car," he tells his team. Hamilton has now pulled a couple of seconds on Pérez.

12:43 PM

Lap 23 of 53 - It's a painfully slow stop for Ricciardo!

That's going to help Hamilton. I reckon it was at least six seconds, possibly even more. He now comes out behind Ocon... Mercedes mechanics go back into the garage. Did they call McLaren's bluff there? Or was it because of the rain...

Verstappen now within 3.5 seconds of Hamilton!

12:42 PM

Lap 22 of 53 - Hamilton does not pit this time

Whether that was because of a message from Mercedes or not, I do not know. Pérez has a look at Hamilton into turn three... could Red Bull think about pitting him now? He's on the hard tyres, to be fair, so needs to go a bit longer to make the strategy work.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car during the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit, in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 - AP
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car during the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit, in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 - AP

It's drizzling in the pit lane... and Mercedes are out with a set of hard tyres. McLaren in the pit lane, too. Ricciardo stops but Hamilton stays out!

12:40 PM

Lap 21 of 53 - Top 10 and gaps to leader

  1. NOR

  2. RIC +11.153

  3. HAM +11.453

  4. PER +12.402

  5. ALO +14.281

  6. VER +14.903

  7. LEC +17.252

  8. VET +24.676

  9. GAS +25.860

  10. BOT +26.513

Hamilton wants to pit and undercut Ricciardo. Hamilton on the medium tyres, as are the top two. The four behind Hamilton, who also have yet to stop, are on the hard tyres.

12:38 PM

Lap 20 of 53 - Norris leads Ricciardo

Bottas told he's still looking at a top five finish. Is he? Really?! Maybe. I wonder if Sainz, Stroll and Russell stopped too early. Verstappen is now within DRS range of Alonso. Both are on hard tyres but the new Honda engine looks pretty tasty.

12:37 PM

Lap 19 of 53 - How is Norris's pace?

He's the only man in the top five in the 1:40s. Verstappen and Leclerc in 6th and 7th also lapping around that time.

Norris leads Ricciardo by 10 seconds. Verstappen now within five seconds of Hamilton, though with another two cars in the way (one of which is his team-mate), so...

12:35 PM

Lap 18 of 52 - Verstappen (6th) takes 1.3s out of Hamilton (3rd) that lap

Alonso is just three seconds ahead in fifth. The gap between the two championship contenders is now under six seconds. The McLaren is very slippy in a straight line. Are the rain clouds closing in as we reach one-third distance?

12:33 PM

Lap 17 of 53 - Verstappen has pace to burn

He was 1.2s quicker than Hamilton that last lap around. He has Alonso and Pérez between himself and the leading Mercedes, though.

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the race - REUTERS
Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the race - REUTERS

12:32 PM

Lap 16 of 53 - Top 10

  1. NOR

  2. RIC

  3. HAM

  4. PER

  5. ALO

  6. VER

  7. LEC

  8. VET

  9. GAS

  10. BOT

Nobody in the top 10 has yet stopped. Sainz is 11th, Stroll 12th and Russell 13th, who have all stopped. Did they do it too early? Have they forced themselves onto two-stoppers or will their tyres be shot at the end of the race?

12:30 PM

Lap 15 of 53 - Verstappen now 8.5s behind Hamilton

I think Norris might be going a bit longer. Will that be a mistake?

12:30 PM

Lap 14 of 53 - Now Sainz pits from second

Norris just did the fastest lap in clear air. It was a slightly slow stop for Sainz, who gets out ahead of Lance Stroll. It's a McLaren 1-2 again... Norris leads Ricciardo and then Hamilton and Pérez.

Norris has to pit now, surely?

12:28 PM

Lap 13 of 53 - Lando Norris takes the lead!

The TV pictures almost missed it but they pick it up as he storms around the outside at turn four! I wonder if he dropped back a bit to charge his battery pack. He got a big tow and did the hard work before the braking zone, actually.

And Verstappen is ahead of Vettel and into ninth!

Russell pits but loses the spot to Stroll, who pitted a lap earlier. What will Hamilton do?

12:26 PM

Lap 12 of 53 - Norris dropped back that last lap

There is a DRS train (or a Trulli-train for those who remember...) behind Russell.

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Williams'  - REUTERS
Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 Williams' - REUTERS

And because of that Lance Stroll pits from fourth, trying to undercut Russell for that final podium spot. Stroll comes out between Bottas and Mazepin. Not good news for Hamilton. This could trigger a lot of other pit stops.

12:24 PM

Lap 11 of 53 - Top 10 and gaps to leader

  1. SAI

  2. NOR +1.660

  3. RUS +6.872

  4. STR +7.722

  5. RIC +8.479

  6. HAM +9.301

  7. PER +9.516

  8. ALO +12.367

  9. OCO +14.158

  10. RAI +15.493

Verstappen in 12th is now within 10 seconds of Hamilton.

12:22 PM

Lap 10 of 53 - Norris very close to Sainz now

Close enough to think about having a look. "Graining on my left front," Hamilton says.

Vettel and Leclerc have a ding-dong battle and Verstappen tries to take advantage by having a pop at them both but it nearly ends in a crash! He gets Leclerc and is up to 12th and is within DRS range of Vettel now...

That looked a risky move but it was Vettel who moved over on Verstappen.

Meanwhile, Norris is edging ever closer...

12:20 PM

Lap 9 of 53 - Hamilton isn't really losing any more time to the leaders

He's still around 10 seconds away from Norris, as he was a few laps ago. The Mercedes is obviously the quickest car today.

12:18 PM

Lap 8 of 53 - Stroll within DRS range of Russell...

...Ricciardo within DRS range of Stroll, Hamilton within DRS range of Ricciardo, Pérez within DRS range of Hamilton...

7.4s between third placed Russell and the leader Carlos Sainz. Norris has closed down to within a second of Sainz, too. Verstappen gets Gasly and goes into 13th.

12:15 PM

Lap 7 of 53 - Top 15

  1. SAI

  2. NOR

  3. RUS

  4. STR

  5. RIC

  6. HAM

  7. PER

  8. ALO

  9. OCO

  10. RAI

  11. VET

  12. LEC

  13. GAS

  14. VER

  15. BOT

12:15 PM

Lap 6 of 53 - Verstappen gets Bottas!

That seemed to come from nowhere! A slick move from the Red Bull driver. Bottas left the door wide open...

12:14 PM

Lap 5 of 53 - Sainz with the fastest lap again

He extends his lead to 2.0s. Hamilton can't get through Ricciardo. Verstappen is 0.7s behind Bottas but has not yet got close enough to really think about having a look.

12:13 PM

Lap 4 of 53 - Leader Carlos Sainz with the fastest lap

Norris is 1.6s behind him with Russell a further 4.5s behind. Russell is obviously in a much slower car than the front two. Hamilton struggling to get past Ricciardo and Pérez is now within a second of Hamilton ahead.

Bottas going well, sets the fastest lap, beating Sainz's earlier effort.

12:10 PM

Lap 3 of 53 - Pérez the fastest man on the track

Though he is 2.7s behind Hamilton. Bottas has overtaken Mazepin now and moves into 14th. Verstappen then does the same to get within a second of the Finn. Would be good to see this on screen...

12:08 PM

Lap 2 of 52 - Here's the top 10

  1. SAI

  2. NOR

  3. RUS

  4. STR

  5. RIC

  6. HAM

  7. BOT

  8. PER

  9. OCO

  10. RAI

Bottas in 15th now... as Hamilton puts a lovely move on Alonso around the outside of turn three and moves back up to sixth. Hamilton already seven seconds behind the leader.

Verstappen in 17th has Latifi between his car and Bottas in 15th. Nope, not any longer. He's got through Latifi and is now 16th.

12:06 PM

THE 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX IS GO!

I'm nervous. Very nervous.

The lights go out and it's a fine start from Norris as Russell takes second from Sainz! By the time they get to the braking zone Sainz has taken the lead but he locks up! Can he keep the lead? Yes he can...

Hamilton is having a tough first lap as he slips back to seventh as Daniel Ricciardo takes sixth from him...

Sainz leads Norris and leads Russell... Ricciardo now takes Alonso for fifth! Stroll up to fourth. The tow is so powerful here. This is less than ideal for Hamilton. Verstappen up to 17th already.

12:03 PM

Verstappen says his battery problem is sorted now

"All good."

They all line up on the grid with Verstappen at the very back.

12:02 PM

THE FORMATION LAP IS GO

Lando Norris gets a message about rain, which is expected in the next 15 minutes. But it is predicted to be very light and very brief.

"My battery is draining, I don't know what's going on," says Verstappen. That is not good news. In fact, it is very bad news.

12:00 PM

Starting tyre types

It's a free choice for everyone and it's fairly evenly split. The top five are on mediums, with Alonso, Pérez and Gasly the only drivers in the top 15 on mediums. Then Latifi is the only driver in the bottom five on mediums with Bottas, Giovinazzi, Leclerc and Verstappen on hards.

11:58 AM

How long will Norris have a clean track ahead of him?

It's a loooooong way to the first braking zone.

Russell and Sainz could get a good tow, as could Hamilton.

11:56 AM

Not very much chance of a Verstappen and Hamilton coming together today

But you never know... could it be Bottas and Verstappen who clash on track?

11:52 AM

Toto Wolff, of Mercedes, speaks to Sky Sports F1

On Bottas:

First of all he has to do his own race. He just needs to move forward and hopefully come into the top five.

On Hamilton:

Normally on paper, P4 at the start is not great. The car has the pace that it has shown on Friday, I think he can calmly but surely make his way forward.

On pressure:

I think it's really enjoyable. At the moment, pressure is something we enjoy going through. It's a challenge – yeah, we like it.

11:49 AM

Polesitter Lando Norris speaks to Sky Sports

A long run down to turn two, a lot of guys – I'm going to be looking in my mirrors. We have a chance, we can score at least a good result, whether it's first or second or third, they're all good for us. I'm racing everyone today unless they're quicker which I expect Lewis to be.

He also mentions Bottas and Verstappen coming through the field. He doesn't sound too optimistic of his chances of leading at the end of the first lap.

11:47 AM

Predictions?

I just really don't have an inkling. I think Hamilton should be the favourite but he might have to take some risks to win, depending on where he ends up at the end of the first lap. I am not sure Verstappen has the easiest day in front of him. What would Red Bull be happy with for him? Sixth? Fifth?

11:40 AM

FINAL STARTING GRID

1. NOR 2. SAI
3. RUS 4. HAM
5. RIC 6. ALO
7. STR 8. PER
9. OCO 10. VET
11. GAS 12. TSU
13. RAI 14. RAI
15. GIO 16. MAZ
17. BOT 18. LAT
19. LEC 20. VET

11:36 AM

Christian Horner of Red Bull, speaks to Sky Sports

Our focus is very much on our own race. To get ahead we're going to have to pass them at some point. It doesn't change our start position... just get our head down and get on with it. It's going to be a fascinating race. It's all going on.

11:34 AM

Looks certain to be a one-stopper

But at least a fair amount of tyre variation possible.

11:25 AM

A 'bit' of rain in the distance

11:22 AM

Current constructor standings

What will this look like at the end of the day? Who knows...?

11:22 AM

It was another fantastic wet qualifying for George Russell yesterday

He qualified on the front row in the wet in Belgium and third in the damp at Sochi. He was the first to take the plunge and go onto the soft slick tyres and he delivered again. Third is usually a good place to start at this track, so he has a good chance to be leading the race. That would be something. Can't wait to see him at Mercedes alongside Hamilton next year.

British Formula One drivers George Russell (L) of Williams Racing and Lando Norris (R) of McLaren F1 Team react after the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. Norris took pole position ahead of third placed Russell. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021. Formula One Grand Prix of Russia, Sochi, Russian Federation - Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
British Formula One drivers George Russell (L) of Williams Racing and Lando Norris (R) of McLaren F1 Team react after the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. Norris took pole position ahead of third placed Russell. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021. Formula One Grand Prix of Russia, Sochi, Russian Federation - Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

11:12 AM

Differing set-ups for Verstappen and Bottas

Of course, different cars and different power units etc. so may not be entirely representative.

11:01 AM

Current driver standings: Top 12

10:53 AM

It was a tough Q3 for Hamilton yesterday

It has been a bit of a scrappy and scruffy season from him, really. Two crashes in qualifying in difficult conditions. He usually shines in them.

10:46 AM

A few more grid penalties today

The most significant of which comes from Valtteri Bottas taking a new power unit. He only had a fresh one fitted in Monza, so this is a bit odd from Mercedes. It could well be a tactic for Bottas to disrupt Verstappen, who starts from 20th.

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 25, 2021 Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during qualifying  - REUTERS
Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 25, 2021 Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during qualifying - REUTERS

Of course they – and Leclerc – will likely move up through the field and Mercedes need the points from Bottas, too, but it could help make Verstappen's recovery drive that little bit harder. In other news, Antonio Giovinazzi takes a gearbox penalty and will start 16th.

10:40 AM

How did Lando Norris sleep last night?

10:35 AM

Chance of showers increasing

That is according to this BBC weatherman.

I think there is a chance for a decent race whatever the weather.

10:32 AM

Qualifying times from yesterday

  1. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1min 41.993secs

  2. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1:42.510

  3. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:42.983

  4. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:44.050

  5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:44.156

  6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:44.204

  7. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:44.710

  8. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:44.956

  9. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:45.337

  10. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:45.865

  11. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:46.573

  12. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:46.641

  13. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:46.751

  14. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams No Time Set

  15. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari No Time Set

  16. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:49.586

  17. Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:49.830

  18. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:51.023

  19. Nikita Mazepin (Raf) Haas F1 1:53.764

  20. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull No Time Set

09:50 AM

Good morning F1 fans

And welcome to our live coverage for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix from the Sochi Autodrom. This is the season that keeps on delivering, is it not? Yesterday's qualifying was a wet one, though it was fairly humdrum until final qualifying when the track dried enough – just about – for drivers to consider switching to slicks, which everyone did. Lando Norris was the driver who managed the conditions best, taking his maiden pole position ahead of former team-mate Carlos Sainz and fellow Briton George Russell.

Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 talks with second place qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russi - Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 talks with second place qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russi - Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Here's Phil Duncan from Sochi with a brief recap:

Hamilton appeared on course to cruise to his 101st pole but a late switch to dry rubber dramatically upset the odds with Norris finishing six tenths clear.

Hamilton – who earlier crashed into the pit lane wall, costing him time – was unable to get temperature into his slick tyres and spun in the closing stages of his final lap.

Max Verstappen, who holds a five-point championship lead over Hamilton, will start from the back of the grid after taking on his fourth engine - one more than is permitted for the season.

With his penalty in mind, and the risk of damage high given the slippery conditions, Verstappen completed a mandatory single lap before parking his Red Bull.

Norris's superb lap, which makes him the youngest British pole-sitter in the sport's history, comes off the back of McLaren's first victory in nine years at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

"Oh boy," said Norris. "It feels amazing. I don't know what to say. It was a manic session. You never think you are going to get a pole but I have managed to do it.

"It was tough. I am going to make myself sound good. The lap before I was two seconds down and I wasn't confident I could improve but I kept the tyres warm. I risked quite a bit and it paid off so I am a happy boy.

There was probably not enough time for Hamilton to complete two laps on the slicks whether he crashed into the pit wall or not but it would have been close. He also went backwards into the barriers at low speed on his final run in Q3. All in all it was a bit of a scruffy session for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas only posting the seventh quickest time.

The long run to the first braking zone at turn two is crucial and, actually, starting on the second row is not a bad place for Hamilton to be. Because of the effect of the slipstream, it can often be the man starting in third who ends up leading at the first proper braking zone.

At the front you have three drivers who have never won a Grand Prix. Will they be super bold into turn one, causing Hamilton problems? Who knows. Hamilton is still favourite to win the race in my book, but it might not be plain sailing.

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