Sainz’s sweetest podium

He overtook at the start, he led the race, he plunged into a downgrade spiral that ruined all his chances of doing something decent at the Russian GP, but Carlos Sainz never gives up, never unplugged from a race. “You’re aiming for fifth place,” his engineer, ‘Ricky’ Adami, told him. “Come on man, just?” He replied to the wall over the radio. “Have your intermediate tires ready,” warned the Madrilenian when in the last third of the race the threatening clouds of the Black Sea covered the Sochi circuit. He began to juggle, at Ferrari they were ready And the Madrilenian rescued a podium that tastes better than the others, because in front of him there is only royalty: Lewis Hamilton, lord and master of Russia, and Max Verstappen, in an epic comeback from the bottom of the grid that looked fatal and that save big, even if the lead loses. All on a sour note: Norris led almost from top to bottom and ended up evicted, watching the podium on TV.

Traffic lights went out at 3:05 p.m. local time in Adler. Lando defended the pole, Carlos started firmly, Russell locked him up, Ricciardo and Hamilton were paired. Anything could happen, but the Madrilenian stopped later than anyone else, blocked at the limit at turn two, and held on to the lead in front of the McLaren. It was nice while it lasted. Because in twelve laps his tires collapsed, the superiority of Woking’s car was evident. Even Russell, who was forming a train from behind, was faster than SF21. Sainz had to stop too early, on lap 15, and thus said goodbye to the fight for the podium. It seemed.

In front of, Norris ran away and Hamilton let him mature on Sunday to come back towards him. The champion saved the obstacle of Ricciardo (with a terrible pit stop) and threw. He tugged and tugged, until he was just over a second away. But he couldn’t handle Norris, the McLaren on the straights was intractable and Lewis never got within a distance to open the DRS.

Chaotic deluge five laps from the end

Until it started to rain, five laps from the end. First they were a few slight drops that invited us to endure, because a change of wheels entails about 30 seconds of loss. But the storm was undoubtedly raging, at least for almost everyone. Lando decided to stay out although from the garage they recommended otherwise, he did not want to waste his enormous income on the platoon. Hamilton stopped on lap 49 and, as if it were an entity capable of mastering the weather as well, the clouds took hold of Sochi and the downpour changed everything.

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Norris was gliding like a dizzy duck on useless wheels on the flooded asphalt. He lost control several times, rivals began to overtake him and what was given was over. It was his day, but he couldn’t read the track conditions before it was impossible to correct. With 21 years and a pole, victory will come. But the experience won over the youth: Sir Lewis did his job and crossed the line almost a minute ahead of the runner-up to claim his 100th career victory in Formula 1. A figure worthy of genius.

Behind, between the traffic trains and the strategic variety, Verstappen and Sainz fished in troubled river. The Dutchman was suffering, had battery and tire problems and was aiming for a sixth or seventh place that was not very profitable for his interests in the championship, but he switched to the green wheel when it was necessary to do so and suddenly found himself second, overtaking floats in the pool from Sochi. The same thing happened to Carlos, who was fighting the third without rubber on the wheels (he did 34 laps with the hard one) and, by putting on his wellies, he was able to recover what was his. There are already five podiums in F1, three in 2021, but this one tastes better: it is alongside the best.

Alonso, sixth, sailed close to the podium

Alonso’s career, sixth on the finish line, lived up to his impressive season. He advanced at the start, surfing on the track limits that have played against him so many times. From the sixth to the fourth. He lost positions because he chose the hard Pirelli from the start, but he held out longer than anyone else and came to ride on podium positions, overtaking Checo, Verstappen or Ricciardo on the track. In their case, they delayed the passage to water tires too much because the top-3 was a reality with three laps to go. In the end it fell to sixth place, which is among the best results of the year for Alpine, more so when rivals Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin did not even add in Sochi. Pérez, in identical strategy to that of the Asturian, was ninth.

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