Mercedes driver Hamilton looked to have spurned a golden opportunity to take the championship lead at Sochi with two mistakes in qualifying leaving him fourth on the grid before finding himself sixth at the end of the first lap.
Max Verstappen knew he would be in for a long race with a back-of-the-grid penalty courtesy of a complete power unit change by Red Bull.
Yet after drama and chaos with rain falling in the closing laps of the race, the top two in the standings emerged first and second, allowing Hamilton to retake the lead in the race for the title by two points from Verstappen.
Asked how he rated his chances for the championship, the Dutchman replied: "50-50, yes or no."
Providing a more elaborate answer, Hamilton said: "Well, undoubtedly it’s going to be tough. I think, for two-thirds of the season so far they’ve had the edge.
"However, it’s obviously been difficult with all sorts of things, curveballs sent to both of us and our teams.
"There’s still everything to play for in these next races. I think they’ve got a good set of circuits coming up and I anticipate it will continue to be really close between us. [I've] Just got to be hopeful of some good races."
Verstappen stayed "calm and focused" on comeback
Verstappen's progress through the field was stunning as he pushed the hard compound tyre into the top 10, including a vital move on Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas early on.
"It definitely felt very good crossing the line, you know, we all know how hard it is to pass and especially with the midfield being so competitive this year, it is really hard to get by and also that was shown again," assessed Verstappen.
"Of course, I got by quite a few but then at one point you just get stuck. The race was also very hard on the tyres.
"They were just graining and opening up very quickly, so then you just lose a lot of grip and it makes you stuck even more and you just can’t really attack any more.
"We just stayed calm, stayed focused, just tried to follow them and basically when the rain came, at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box.
"The lap before, probably, if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.
"So to basically go from seventh to second for us was, of course, an amazing result."
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