The 2021 F1 Russian Grand Prix is one of those days the sport will remember for a long time, at least for the near future. Lewis Hamilton achieved a milestone in the sport of 100 wins which will take a long time for a future champion to surpass. Although, in honesty, many of us assumed this would happen maybe a few races ago, and The Hammer is not leaving the sport anytime soon – so the shock factor is probably not as high.
However, that’s not the only reason we will remember this race – it will go down as Lando Norris’ almost first win and a pretty enthralling race with multiple battles – because most people anticipated different outcomes in many places on the leaderboard.
Lewis Hamilton – F1 is time and again more than just raw speed and force, but about consistency and reacting at the right moment when the going gets tough. Hamilton did not get the start he hoped for and was stuck chasing the rear of the McLarens and Sainz for most of the race. He even ignored his team’s first call for intermediate tyres when the rain arrived but eventually reacted at the exact moment he needed to catch up to the front of the grid. We did not expect him to close the 25 sec required to win the race, but he did and closed his status as a centurion totaling more wins than Senna, Lauda, and Fangio combined.
Mercedes AMG F1 Team – The Brackley team’s strategy was unclear for most of the race. They left out Hamilton for too long before the first pit stop, raising eyebrows about the long game. However, Toto Wolff said he expected Hamilton to win the race and Bottas to end with a top 5 finish, and thanks to the rain and reaction at the right moment, they got what they set out to do. As a result, Mercedes solidified their lead in the Constructors Championship over Red Bull by 33 points, which will surely come in handy later in the year.
Max Verstappen – In the confusion driven by the rain, Verstappen finished with a P2. None of us, including Verstappen and Red Bull, expected this to happen, given he started at P20 and was only at P6 until lap 51. Nevertheless, a well-timed tyre change served him well combined with the skill of driving well in the rain Max is known for.
Valtteri Bottas – The Finnish driver also started at the back of the grid and led an uneventful race. He could not hold Verstappen back or make spectacular overtakes we saw him perform in Monza, especially on a track that he’s exceptionally comfortable at. However, he answered the team’s call at the right time, held steady in the rain, and finished in P5, where none of us thought he would end at, until the final few laps.
Kimi Raikkonen – Iceman got his highest point finish of the season at P8, given he started at P13. The last few laps race came down to keeping steady in the rain, and in 20 years of racing, he knows a thing or two about it.
Charles Leclerc – The “ferrarista” ran a solid race starting at the back of the grid after taking a penalty for additional power unit elements but steadily making it up the leaderboard. He would have finished well within points and a safe P8, at least if he came in for the tyres at the right moment. Unfortunately, Ferrari’s strategy guidance didn’t serve him well either, finally ending his race at P15.
Lance Stroll -the Canadian driver had an incredible start and maintained at P4 for quite a bit. Aston even triggered the undercut sequence for the grid, hoping to retain the position, but he never made it quite back up. Unfortunately, the team made the call to put intermediate tyres on a little too late, adding to the incident with Vettel that no doubt shook him for a second and eventually the collision at Turn 8 with Gasly, which ended up with a 10-sec penalty and 2 penalty points on Stroll’s license. He finished at P12 outside points and probably with equal disappointment.
Antonio Giovinazzi – Rumors of Giovinazzi’s replacement at Alfa Romeo have circulated for a few weeks now. With the pressure on him to perform well, it sure would have helped to communicate with the team, especially with the chaos ensuing from the rain. The the Italian driver drove the entire race without a team radio which undoubtedly affected his race with tyre strategy calls. Given all of that, he ended up at P16, a position higher than where he started – so we can not call it a total loss.
Lando Norris – This was the obvious one that disappointed everyone, even non-Lando fans. Norris’ evolution as a star driver has been remarkable to watch this season. His consistency, fearlessness, and speed all make him a delight to watch. And post yesterday, he has gained some experience about reaction times to add to his repertoire. A tyre change 2 laps early may have salvaged his race to at least a podium finish. However, we do learn through losses more than wins, and with what Norris has demonstrated, his first win is undeniably not too far around the corner.
McLaren – the historic British team definitely did not have a great day across drivers and multiple racing series. At the NTT IndyCar final race, Pato O’Ward crashed out before he had a real chance on his maiden championship. They did not have a great day at Sochi either – Ricciardo’s slow pit stop combined with the late strategy call for Norris cost the team big yesterday.
F1-Author: Abby Rakshit – @AbbyRakshit
Photo: Scuderia Ferrari – Mercedes AMG F1 Team – Red Bull Racing Honda – McLaren F1