100-time GP winner Hamilton insists Norris has ‘many wins ahead’ after McLaren man is denied maiden victory in Russia
Lando Norris was cruelly denied a maiden Grand Prix win in Russia, but his pain was Lewis Hamilton’s gain – the Mercedes driver taking his 100th Grand Prix victory on an astonishing day at Sochi. After the race, Hamilton extended his sympathy to Norris and said there’s much more to come from McLaren’s 21-year-old racer.
After finishing second to team mate Daniel Ricciardo in Italy, Norris took pole position for the Russian GP, but came under threat from Hamilton late in the race.
But it was the weather that ultimately unravelled the race, Norris choosing to stay out on slicks while Hamilton pitted for intermediates when rain fell just a few laps from the flag, and ultimately spinning off the track to give the Mercedes driver win number 100.
Asked if he felt for Norris, who lost out on his first win, Hamilton said: “Yes, for sure. Look, he’s so young, he’s got so many more wins up ahead of him. He’s been doing a fantastic job, he did a fantastic job yesterday in the wet, he’s doing such a great job leading that team and McLaren have won the last race – they’ve been very hard to beat for us.”
That decision to pit for intermediates was the pivotal choice that helped Hamilton win the race, but it was something Hamilton resisted at first – before the Silver Arrows insisted he stop for tyres with the rain coming down hard at Sochi – and the Briton made sure to credit his team for helping him to victory, after Norris came over to the seven-time champion to offer his congratulations on the win.
“Firstly I can’t take credit for that amazing decision; that was the team’s," Hamilton said. "I think, for me, I was very much in no man’s land for a long time in terms of, I didn’t really know where I was in my race, I had no idea how far Lando was ahead… they were incredibly quick and he was doing a really great job.
“They called me in, and I was like: ‘He’s right there! I’ve only got three laps or so to catch up 24 seconds.’ I 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,” he said. “Just blind faith in the end. I put all my faith in the team and they called me in and I I believed them. That’s part of our journey together. And it could have played out any way, but I think our team did a really great job in terms of understanding when the rain was coming and if it was going to get worse. And they were 100% right…” he said.
As for his 100th win, Hamilton reflected on the unprecedented milestone after the Russian GP. He said: “You know, I could only ever have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to be able to win these races and get to drive with such phenomenal talents this late in my career, and to continue to be building with Mercedes – of which I’m so proud of everything we’ve done, not only on track, also off.
"This is just a special moment for everyone that’s been a part of it. I’ve had the most incredible team,” he added.
The win puts Hamilton two points ahead of Max Verstappen in the standings, the Red Bull driver having pulled off an incredible recovery drive from P20 to P2 on Sunday.