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Lewis Hamilton hails rain for winning his 100th grand prix

Lewis Hamilton became the first Formula One driver to win 100 grands prix with a dramatic rain-assisted victory in Russia that sent the Mercedes driver back to the top of the championship yesterday.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished an impressive second at Sochi, after starting last of 20 drivers due to engine penalties, thereby limiting the damage from his rival's win.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton is now two points clear of Verstappen with seven races remaining, after starting fourth on the grid and five points behind the young Dutchman.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz was third for Ferrari on a day of heartbreak for McLaren's Lando Norris, who led three laps from the end but decided to stay out on slick tyres as the rain fell and ended up seventh.

The 21-year-old Briton slid and slithered on the treacherous surface as Hamilton, who had pitted from second place for intermediate tyres with four laps to go, made up the 25-second gap and seized the lead.

"What a race the weather provided. It's taken a long time to get to 100 and I wasn't sure it would come," said Hamilton.

He also hailed the timely rain, saying: "It would've been tough to get past Lando unless we came up to some traffic or he made a mistake, which he hasn't been doing, so then the rain came and it was very opportunistic."

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who won the previous race in Italy, was fourth for McLaren, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas fifth after starting from 16th. - REUTERS

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