Hamilton equals Senna on 65 poles with storming lap in Canada

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Lewis Hamilton has delivered a blistering lap in qualifying for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix, a 1:11.459, to score his fourth pole of the 2017 Formula 1 season and more importantly, the 65th of his illustrious career.

On a track where he took his first Grand Prix victory with McLaren 10 years ago in 2007, Hamilton has now equalled the late Ayrton Senna for second all-time with 65 pole positions, later receiving a helmet from the Senna family. Only Michael Schumacher, with 68 poles – and himself a seven-time race winner in Montreal at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – stands ahead on the all-time list.

Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Hamilton now has the best grid position to win his third race of the year and what would be a sixth Canadian Grand Prix, after a tough weekend in Monaco.

Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari came oh so close to eclipsing that, with a 1:11.795 coming up a scant 0.004 of a second shy of Hamilton’s 1:11.791 initial flier to beat him on his second-to-last run. But Hamilton went quicker to get the gap bigger, which was needed as Vettel improved slightly to a 1:11.789.

Valtteri Bottas slots in third in the second Mercedes with Kimi Raikkonen fourth in the second Ferrari.

The Red Bulls slotted in fifth and sixth (Max Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo), with the two Force Indias eighth and ninth (Sergio Perez ahead of Esteban Ocon). Felipe Massa (Williams) and Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) will start in seventh and 10th, respectively.

In Q1, Bottas was first into the 1:12s in qualifying with his best lap of the weekend to date in his Mercedes at a 1:12.864. That supplanted the Ferraris and Hamilton’s Mercedes at the top of the charts.

Hamilton beat that mark with a 1:12.692 with just under eight minutes remaining in the session, and Bottas beat it fractionally later at 1:12.685.

The Ferraris ran supersofts only in Q1, saving a set of ultrasofts for later.

The five drivers knocked out in Q1 were Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), Lance Stroll (Williams), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), and the two Sauber drivers, Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Wehrlein brought an early end to the session, as he lost control in Turns 1 and 2 in the final minutes. His Sauber got onto the grass and then lost control at the rear, with his rear end crashing into the wall and knocking off the rear wing. He was able to exit his car.

Q2 saw Daniil Kvyat clout the wall at the exit of Turn 9 in his Toro Rosso, with his right rear tire and rim delaminating as he limped back to the pits.

Kvyat, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz Jr., Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer were those eliminated from the session.

It set up the stage for a Q3 thriller between the Mercedes and Ferrari teams, with the previous four races having seen each of their four drivers having scored one pole.

But would it be Bottas (Bahrain), Vettel (Russia), Hamilton (Spain) or Raikkonen (Monaco) who’d be the one to break that parity up top and score the next pole?

Hamilton unleashed that 1:11.791 lap on his first lap of the session, which looked poised to stand as the pole time as it was the quickest lap of the weekend by more than seven tenths. Of course, he went quicker himself on his final ultimate lap.

It became a question of whether anyone would beat that mark from there, and no one could, despite Vettel’s best efforts.

Times are below. Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix airs at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”