Lewis Hamilton made history today during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as he claimed his 34th career pole position, and in doing so became the greatest British qualifier in Formula 1 history.
Having claimed pole number 33 in Malaysia, the Briton had been tied with compatriot Jim Clark, but today moved ahead of the two-time world champion who tragically died during an F2 race back in 1968.
Wet conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit opened up the fight for pole position as Red Bull and Ferrari looked to rain on Mercedes’ parade, but ultimately it was yet another pole position for the German marque as Hamilton finished six-tenths of a second clear of Daniel Ricciardo. His pole lap was one to be savored in the wet conditions, and he was in high spirits following the session on Saturday.
“It was a tough session today, but I really enjoyed it,” Hamilton explained. “It’s definitely the most satisfying feeling to come away with pole position in these wet conditions because the track is so slippery and you need to find the grip to put the lap together.
“The car felt great and the team have done a fantastic job this weekend. Our rivals look closer in the wet conditions, so we’ll be hoping it’s a dry race to take advantage of the position we’re in.
“We go into the race with a little bit of an unknown because after I struggled in practice on Friday. It felt pretty good in the wet, though, so I’m hopeful that we can convert our pole position into a strong race performance tomorrow.”
When asked about breaking Clark’s record, Hamilton was nonchalant and claimed that he did not know what figure he was on. That said, he used near enough the same line in Malaysia when he drew level with Clark and moved ahead of Nigel Mansell to claim the English record for poles (Clark hailed from Scotland).
Clark claimed his last pole position at the 1968 South African Grand Prix, which he duly converted into his final win in what was his final Formula 1 race. Having spent his entire career with Team Lotus, the Scotsman claimed two world titles and 25 wins despite starting just 72 races. He is widely regarded as being one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time.
This result sees Hamilton move up to fourth place in the all-time list of pole position holders. However, he still has some way to go to match Michael Schumacher (68), Ayrton Senna (65) and current rival Sebastian Vettel (45).