Verstappen’s Sochi second ‘like a victory’ as Hamilton wins 100th race


ewis Hamilton’s century of grand prix victories masked the fact that Max Verstappen was the real winner in the title fight at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

It was understandable Red Bull described his drive from the back of the grid after two penalties – for his coming together with Hamilton in Monza as well as for taking a new engine – as akin to a victory.

Hamilton may have regained the championship lead in a season ebbing and flowing but his Dutch rival will go into the next race in Turkey in two weekends’ time the happier just two points back in the standings.

“It feels like a victory for us today,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “To go from 20th to P2 with the engine penalty and the grid penalty, I don’t think we could have expected more than that coming here.

“We thought top five might be possible so to come away with a podium is hugely valuable. For us to come away from here only two points behind in the drivers’ championship with an engine penalty taken, that’s great news.”

Even Hamilton was in awe of Mercedes’ rivals as late rain turned the race on its head, Hamilton and Verstappen among those who benefited from returning to the pits to change to intermediate tyres for the final laps of racing.

“To come from last, have two penalties and come back to second, that’s mega damage limitation,” said the Briton, who himself benefited from race leader Lando Norris’ decision to delay coming in for a tyre change.

Verstappen, meanwhile, said he would have jumped at the chance of a second place if offered it ahead of the race itself.

It again leaves the title race evenly balanced ahead of Sunday’s next race, a championship that Horner believes will not be decided until the season finale in December.

“This is going to go all the way to Abu Dhabi,” said Red Bull’s team principal. “I’ve got absolutely no doubt about that, and it’s going to be a phenomenal competition.”

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