Sochi : , Sep 26 (IANS) Lewis Hamilton made a late switch to intermediate tyres in a Russian Grand Prix that started in dry conditions but ended under rain and the Mercedes he surged to his 100th Grand Prix victory on Sunday.
The late switch in tyres helped Hamilton take lead when pole-sitter Lando Norris slid out of the lead with just two laps left. Max Verstappen vroomed ahead from the 20th position on the grid to finish second while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz took third position having started second.
The day started with Valtteri Bottas becoming the latest to get a grid penalty take the hit as Mercedes decided to put a new power unit into his car to see him start 16th with the knowledge that Max Verstappen would start 20th (having taken a new Honda engine earlier in the weekend) and Charles Leclerc 19th with a new Ferrari unit.
With the race starting in dry conditions, there a mix of medium compound and hard tyres on the grid with the first five drivers - Norris on pole, Sainz second, Russell third, Hamilton fourth and Ricciardo in fifth - on mediums, and only Fernando Alonso starting sixth, Sergio Perez (P8), Pierre Gasly (P11), Bottas, Antonio Giovinazzi (P17), Leclerc and Verstappen starting on the hard compounds.
Although he fell to seventh at the start, Hamilton's pace was competitive on his medium tyres and he pitted on Lap 27 for hard compound tyres, before Norris - who had scored a sensational first pole on Saturday and duelled with Sainz early in the race - and once the pitstop sequences had finished by Lap 38 it was Norris leading a rapid Hamilton.
The pair were just one second part in the closing stages. And then the rain hit.
Lead pair Hamilton and Norris stayed out after others pitted for intermediate compounds and it was the Mercedes driver who made the decision to pit first, switching with three laps left - as Norris stayed out, a first ever F1 victory almost within touching distance.
The McLaren driver did his best to keep the lead but, with the rain getting heavier by the second, he eventually slid off the track and Hamilton passed him for the first position, according to a report on F1's official website.
Norris eventually finished seventh having pitted at the very end, but will find himself at the mercy of the stewards after crossing the pit entry line twice on his way in.
Verstappen, from 20th on the grid, finished an incredible second after switching from hards to mediums midway through the race and cruising through the field. And it was Ferrari's Sainz who took the final podium place - having briefly led over Norris - with an early switch to hards from mediums.
Valtteri Bottas started 16th but took fifth having pitted for mediums just after Verstappen, while Fernando Alonso started sixth and finished there with a long first stint on hard tyres.
Kimi Raikkonen kept his cool to make up places in the late wet conditions and finished eighth - leaving Sergio Perez and George Russell to take the final points for Red Bull and Williams, respectively.