Daniel Ricciardo exposes teammate's blunder in 'devastating' F1 drama

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Lando Norris, pictured here after sliding off the track in the Russian Grand Prix.
Lando Norris slid off the track with just three laps remaining. Image: Fox Sports/Getty

Lando Norris was left devastated after the Russian Grand Prix after a tactical blunder and some wet weather cost him a spot on the podium after starting from pole position.

Lewis Hamilton became the first Formula One driver to win 100 grand prix races with a dramatic rain-assisted victory that sent the Mercedes driver two points clear in the championship.

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Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished an impressive second at Sochi's Olympic Park on Sunday, after starting 20th and last due to engine penalties, thereby limiting the damage from his rival's fifth win of the season and first since July.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz was third for Ferrari on a day of hope and ultimate heartbreak for Norris as a late downpour dashed the young Briton's hopes of a first win.

The 21-year-old Norris had started on pole for the first time in his career, lost out to Sainz at the start but then passed the Spaniard 13 laps later and was still leading when the rain started to fall.

Norris decided to stay out on slicks, after Hamilton had stopped for intermediates on team advice, with the top two comfortably clear of the rest.

But with just three laps remaining, Norris plunged from first to seventh in heartbreaking scenes after slipping, sliding off the track and eventually having to pit.

The young driver appeared to be in tears after the race, with his decision to stay on the slick tyres backfiring brutally.

"I don't know where to start," said Norris. "Obviously unhappy, devastated in a way.

"I guess we made a call to stay out; we stand by that call but it was the wrong one at the end of the day."

The tactical blunder was ultimately exposed by Norris' McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who finished fourth after stopping early for the treaded tyres.

“You know I’m asking pit wall if the rain’s getting heavier because this part of the track was more or less dry, it was the far part which was wet,” Ricciardo said after the race.

“And we are the best reference for that so I said like Turn 5, Turn 7, I can’t keep it on the track anymore.

“So for me it was clear, I said I need to come in for the inter(mediates) because Turn 7 I went off nearly close to the wall. So it wasn’t even a question for me. I told the guys I need inter.

“I think normally, we are the best judge for that because we are the one feeling the track but again, I’m not speaking about Lando’s situation."

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, pictured here on the podium after the Russian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz celebrate on the podium after the Russian Grand Prix. (Photo by Sergei Fadeichev\TASS via Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo speaks out about Lando Norris 'disaster'

Ricciardo said he felt for his teammate and was encouraged by his own performance, which came after his drought-breaking victory at the Italian Grand Prix last week.

“At least for me today it was clear and actually in hindsight probably one lap earlier was even better. We still probably didn’t perfect it but it was still the right call," the Aussie said.

"Lando’s race was a bit of a disaster at the end. It could have been by my understanding a first or a second by the sound of it.

“From a team (perspective), I think there’s encouragement with performance, obviously there could have been more points today but we’ll keep looking at it.”

Hamilton had slipped to seventh at the end of the opening lap, losing out at the start after being fourth on the grid, but made up places as those ahead of him pitted early.

He was still 25 seconds behind Norris after his final stop but the team had read the weather right and the tyres easily allowed him to catch up and overtake his compatriot for a landmark win.

"The team made a great call right at the end. I didn't want to let Lando go and I didn't know what the weather was doing," said Hamilton.

"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."

The only consolation for Norris, and it was a scant one on an afternoon that had offered so much more, was a bonus point for fastest lap.

with AAP

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