SOCHI, Russia — To earn his 100th Formula One victory, Lewis Hamilton drew on much of his vast experience from the first 99.
He used his overtaking skills, strategic thinking and ability to handle his Mercedes in the rain to fight back from seventh place on the first lap to a landmark victory that was more than a career milestone. It also helped him regain the lead in the season points standings from rival Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was chasing Lando Norris for the lead when it started raining late in the race. The 36-year-old British driver heeded his team's advice to stop for intermediate tires — though he was reluctant to break off his pursuit of the leader — but Norris stayed out on slick tires and paid the price when he slid off the track and let Hamilton through.
"It's taken a long time to get to 100, and at times I wasn't sure it would come," Hamilton said.
It was Hamilton's fifth win of the season and his first since the British Grand Prix in July, and it extended his F1 record for career victories. The four-time reigning F1 season champion, he is making a push for his eighth title overall, which would break the record he shares with Michael Schumacher.
"It's a magical moment," Hamilton said. "I could only have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive with such phenomenal talents this late in my career."
Hamilton turned Verstappen's five-point lead in the championship chase into a two-point advantage of his own, though the 23-year-old Dutchman who drives for Red Bull finished second despite starting last due to his team changing engines. Carlos Sainz led the race early and finished third for Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo narrowly missed the podium for McLaren in fourth, and Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton's teammate, was fifth after an eventful race. Mercedes' decision to swap the engine in Bottas' car and take a penalty prompted speculation it was an attempt to deploy Bottas to hold up Verstappen, which the team denied. Regardless, it didn't take long for Verstappen to swoop past Bottas.
Fernado Alonso was sixth for Alpine, ahead of Norris and Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen. The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez was ninth and George Russell took the last point for Williams in 10th. Russell qualified third and held up the cars behind him — including Hamilton, his teammate next year at Mercedes — for much of the early part of the race.
The day had plenty of echoes of Hamilton's past.
After his tough start, he began moving up with a tough overtake around the outside of Alonso. They were fractious teammates and title rivals when Hamilton was a rookie in 2007. The chaotic wet finish also brought back memories from Hamilton's long record of victories in the rain.
Verstappen sliced through the field and had Hamilton in sight by the halfway stage. Hamilton's Mercedes worked better on the hard tires in the second half of the race, and Verstappen's charge seemed to have stalled when he was overtaken by the Alpine of Alonso and stuck in seventh.
But then the rain came and Verstappen switched to intermediate tires early, allowing him to secure an unexpected podium finish and limit the damage to his hopes of a first title.
"We didn't lose so many points today, so that's really, really good," Verstappen told his team over the radio.
One key question for the rest of the season is whether Hamilton, too, will need to use an extra engine and take a penalty. Verstappen's verdict on his title chances were "50-50."
Hamilton also predicted a close fight.
"Undoubtedly, it's going to be tough. I think for the two-thirds of the season so far, (Verstappen) had the edge," he said. "However, it's been difficult with all sorts of things, curveballs sent to both of us and our teams. It's still everything to play for in these next races."
It doesn't take much rain to make a difference in Sochi, where the flat track means water builds up on the surface.
Norris gambled on dry tires despite warnings from his team about how slippery the track was becoming. If not for the rain, Hamilton said, "it would have been tough to get past Lando. He had great pace."
Norris was aiming to give McLaren back-to-back victories after Ricciardo won at the previous race in Italy, where Hamilton and Verstappen collided.
Hamilton has now won the Russian Grand Prix on five of eight occasions, and his victory Sunday continues a clean sweep of victories in Russia for Mercedes.