(Australian Associated Press)
Formula One motorsport executive Ross Brawn has backed Lewis Hamilton to reach 120 victories after the British star brought up his century in Russia.
The seven-time world champion took advantage of a dramatic rain-hit conclusion to Sunday’s race at Sochi’s Olympic Park to record the landmark haul and assume control of his title battle with Max Verstappen.
Hamilton, 36, levelled Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 victories last October, and a year on has moved nine ahead of the German driver.
Hamilton put pen-to-paper on a two-year contract extension earlier this season – and Brawn, who was integral in persuading him to leave McLaren for Mercedes – has predicted he could push the record out of sight.
“One hundred is a milestone no one thought anyone would ever reach,” said Brawn, technical director of Ferrari when Schumacher dominated the sport at the turn of the century.
“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.
“But then Lewis beat it – and now Lewis has 100 wins. There is nothing stopping him.
“Who knows where it’s going to end up? 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 as it’s a centenary that no-one ever thought would be achieved.”
Hamilton will head to the 16th round of a scheduled 22 in Turkey a week on Sunday holding a two-point advantage over Verstappen in his quest for a record-breaking eighth crown.
Hamilton’s Red Bull rival drove from last to second, elevated up the order in the closing stages after he took an early decision to switch from slick to wet tyres.
Lando Norris had been on course to become the youngest British F1 winner, but he was denied a maiden victory when he initially refused to stop for the intermediate rubber. The 21-year-old limped home in seventh.
Brawn added: “Lando will be hurting right now. We all felt his pain when he slid off the track. It was a tragedy.
“You could ask, ‘should his McLaren team have taken the lead and insisted he pit when he said he didn’t want to?’ I’d say it’s 60-40 in favour of the team making the decision.
“That sinking feeling a driver or a team gets when they realise they made the wrong call, and the lead is evaporating before their very eyes, is horrible.
“They have my sympathies, but that kind of drama is what makes F1 so fantastic.”