It was elusive for a while since he powered to Formula 1 victory 99 at Silverstone in July but, at the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton powered to his 100th win, an incredible milestone that was once thought to be out of reach says F1 motorsport chief Ross Brawn.
At one point in the race, with Hamilton stalking a feisty Lando Norris in the closing stages but without finding a real gap to attack the McLaren, the Mercedes driver appeared set for second place but the rain came down and changed all that.
In a nutshell, Norris was kept out a lap too long by his indecisive team, while Mercedes got it spot on by pitting Hamilton just as the rain started to pelt down.
Reflecting on a dramatic race at Sochi Autodrom on Sunday, Brawn said of Hamilton’s achievement: “It’s a milestone no one thought anyone would ever reach. Michael’s tally of 91 was so far ahead of what anyone else had ever done at that point that it never seemed conceivable that anyone would get near it.”
Notably, Brawn was instrumental in the team Ferrari built around Schumacher and dominated for the first four years of this century.
“But then Lewis beat it – and now Lewis has 100 wins there’s nothing stopping him,” continued Brawn. “Who knows where it’s going to end up? He’s with us for another couple of years at least – and he will win races every year.
“I don’t think we could predict 200 wins, but I think we could certainly predict 20 more as he’s still massively competitive and motivated. It’s just staggering and congratulations to him, as it’s a centenary that no one ever thought would be achieved.”
Brawn, who was also a key player in the resurrection of Mercedes a decade or so ago, now from his perch in the F1 management team, tipped his hat to his former team who made it all possible for Hamilton: “It’s a measure of a world champion in a world championship team, that little glitches – such as Lewis hitting the wall in qualifying – look glaring because you make them so infrequently.
“Mercedes and Lewis weren’t on it in qualifying, at a track where they were expected to dominate given recent history. Friday practice showed they were much quicker on the long runs. It was all there for them to take the advantage. So the fact it didn’t go to plan shows that this is not a slam dunk for them.”
After Sochi, Mercedes lead the 2021 F1 constructors standings by 33 points while Hamilton is back on top of the F1 drivers’ championship table by two points over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
However, Brawn predicts it won’t be easy: “They’re going to have to fight hard all the way to the end if they are going to win the championship. Fighting hard internally is different from fighting hard externally.
“When you’re fighting hard internally, what’s the worse that can happen? If one driver doesn’t win, the other would do. They had years where it was Nico or Lewis as there was no one to pick up the pieces if they didn’t deliver. Mercedes had that cushion if they messed up.
“Now there is no cushion. Max is putting up a massive challenge for the championship, he was fantastic on Sunday, delivering a masterclass in damage limitation to recover to second from last and while he lost the championship lead, he’s only two points behind Lewis now,” pointed out the F1 chief.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 27, 2021