Despite leading the majority of the race, weather caught out Norris and cruelly took away his maiden Formula 1 victory. Hamilton judged the conditions perfectly to take his 100th victory while Verstappen climbed from 20th to 2nd.
Sainz storms as Hamilton is swamped
Sainz went wheel to wheel with Norris as the race started and swept into the lead through turn 1. Miraculously, Russell kept 3rd while Hamilton was swamped off the line. Battles with Ricciardo and Stroll dropped Hamilton to 7th by the end of the first lap.
There were a huge amount of overstakes in the first lap, the most notable being a huge lunge from Ricciardo on Hamilton.
Sainz and Norris had a 5s gap to 3rd by the 5th lap, while Russell was starting to hold up Stroll, Ricciardo and Perez behind.
Behind, Verstappen was starting to make progress. After dropping Bottas to the back of the grid, Mercedes expected him to hold up the Red Bull. By lap 6, Verstappen was in front of the Finn and 14th overall.
Norris Strikes back
On lap 9, Norris closed the 2s gap and started bothering Sainz in 1st. Norris attempted several moves around the track and, despite getting very close, was unable to get the lead. But, on lap 13, Norris managed to blast past Sainz in sector 3. The DRS was incredibly effective and Sainz had no chance.
Later that lap, Verstappen pulled off a similar move on Vettel and was now in a net points scoring position.
Stroll was the first to pit in an attempt to undercut the traffic jam caused by Russell. The Briton was next to pit but was caught out by the undercut and Stroll found his way past.
Sainz pitted first to as all eyes were now focusing on the pitstops. Stroll almost managed to find a way past, closing the gap massively in the pitstops. Strangely, Norris decided to stay out as the strategies were now getting mixed. It now appeared that McLaren and Hamilton would be attempting a 1 stop, while the others who had pitted would stick with 2. In all of this, Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc were on hards and an unknown going forwards. This was made more perplexing as Verstappen set back to back fastest laps on 18&19 lap old hards.
Ricciardo’s race ruiner
Next to pit was Ricciardo from 2nd on lap 23. But, it was a nightmare stop as the McLaren was stationary for over 7s, this gifted positions to Stroll, Russell and Ocon.
The stop now freed Hamilton who was able to set a fastest lap in clean air. Verstappen was 4s behind at Ricciardo’s stop, but was now bleeding time stuck behind Alonso.
On lap 27, Hamilton finally stopped and Verstappen surprisngly stopped too. The stop resulted in a lot of lost places and were now deep in traffic. Hamilton 9th, Verstappen 12th.
Out infront, Norris was still plugging away with consistent lap times, but after the strategiests checked the gaps on track, decided to pit the Briton on lap 28. Norris’ stop was a lot cleaner than his team-mate and he still had the net lead.
Hamilton presents a challenge
Hamilton was now starting to make moves and overtook Sainz, the previous 2nd place driver, on lap 30. Later on the same lap Hamilton was now one place and 8s behind Norris.
Despite his slow stop, Ricciardo was still racing for a podium and made a big move on Stroll on lap 32. This led to a bad sector for the Canadian and he was swamped by Verstappen on the main straight.
The middle portion of the race plateaued from the action at the start. Hamilton was slowly catching Norris in front, while the battle for the final podium place turned into a DRS train, hugely affecting Verstappen in 8th on the softer tyre.
Perez pitted from the lead, but suffered a very long stop, dropping him from a potential 3rd, to 5th, just infront of his team-mate. This had a knock on effect and the recently stopped Alonso found his way past Verstappen.
With 15 laps to go, Hamilton had closed to within 2s of Norris. But the McLaren driver had crucially saved just the right amount of tyre to manage the gap and ensure that Hamilton couldn’t get DRS. But this changed with 8 laps to go, Hamilton had been chipping away at the gap and was now jumping between 1.1s and 0.9s.
Perez finally got passed Ricciardo and was now chasing Sainz for the final podium place. The Mexican had a significant tyre advantage and 3s to catch.
The heavens open
But, there was one last bit of chaos as rain struck the track. Sainz was the first to radio through to prepare for intermediates on lap 47 out of 53.
The track was now greasy and Norris went wide, almost giving Hamilton the opportunity to get past. He defended bravely through sector 2 and was able to keep the lead. But Hamilton was now less than 0.5s behind.
Perez made the most of the weather and stormed past Sainz into 3rd.
Many cars cars dived into the pits as they were now squirreling around the track. But Hamilton and Norris bizzarely stayed out, losing a huge amount of time. A lap later, Hamilton took the call and jumped into the pits, but Norris continued to stay out. The rain increased and Norris lost the entire pit stop advantage in a lap and a half. To make matters worse, he spun the car round and gifted the lead to Hamilton.
Despite all this, Verstappen stormed into 2nd, from last on the grid. Sainz was able to scrape back on the podium. Ricciardo was able to consolidate for McLaren taking 4th, while Bottas was another driver to jump up on the confusion. Alonso took 6th, while Norris climbed back to 7th. Raikkonen took points on his return after testing positive for COVID-19. Perez fell to 9th, while Russell took another points finish for Williams, his 4th of the season.
Full Race Results
- Verstappen +53.271
- Sainz +62.475
- Ricciardo +65.607
- Bottas +67.533
- Alonso +81.321
- Norris +87.224
- Raikkonen +88.955
- Perez +90.076
- Russell + 100.551
- Stroll +106.198
- Vettel +1 Lap
- Gasly +1 Lap
- Ocon +1 Lap
- Leclerc +1 Lap
- Giovinazzi +1 Lap
- Tsunoda +1 Lap
- Mazepin + 2 Laps
- Latifi RET
- Schumacher RET
Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter