Lewis Hamilton further cemented his claim to being the greatest Formula One driver of all-time with his 100th victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday but the big winner overall could be his title rival Max Verstappen.
“That 100th race victory is just mind-blowing,” said Hamilton’s boss, Toto Wolff, motorsport chief of his Mercedes team. “It’s going to be in the news for 24 hours – but only 20 years down the line we are going to realize that we’ve been part of that.
“But we realize that you are being part of a journey that no other sportsman in Formula 1 has done so far and that is beyond the races that we’ve won, the championships – that is from the humanist aspect – to be part of this is special.”
Hamilton himself moved up from fourth on the grid to second and seized victory from McLaren’s Lando Norris when his young British compatriot spun off in the rain late on.
“It’s a magical moment,” said the 36-year-old Hamilton, who had been on 99 victories since his triumph at Silverstone back in July.
“I could only ever have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive against such phenomenal talent this late in my career.”
Hamilton has most wins, most poles and shares the record of seven world titles with German great Michael Schumacher.
But though he has edged back ahead of Verstappen, by two points, with a third of the season left, it seems Red Bull are set to finally end the Mercedes dominance of the hybrid era.
Verstappen – who crashed into Hamilton in the previous Italian Grand Prix, eliminating both drivers – recovered to second from the back of the grid in Sochi having been penalized for taking a fresh engine.
Escaping Russia, where Mercedes have ruled the roost since it entered F1, and the Monza track also thought to favour the champions while staying so close to Hamilton bodes well for the remainder of the year.
“With the penalty we had and to only lose one spot basically is definitely not too bad,” Verstappen said. “When I woke up this morning I definitely didn’t expect this result.”
Hamilton admitted that “for two thirds of the season so far they’ve had the edge” but insisted “there’s still everything to play for in these next races.
“I think they’ve got a good set of circuits coming up and I anticipate or just continue to be really close between us.”
Verstappen was much more concise in surmising his title chances.
“Fifty-fifty, yes or no,” he said.
The next race is in Turkey on October 10.