Lewis Hamilton found it “surreal” to have taken his fifth pole position for the British Grand Prix in qualifying at Silverstone on Saturday, matching Jim Clark’s 50-year-old record.
Hamilton produced a stunning final lap in Q3 to finish half a second clear of the field and score his 67th career pole, leaving him just one shy of all-time record holder Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton also tied Clark’s record standing from 1967 for the most British Grand Prix poles, marking an achievement that the three-time world champion found hard to comprehend.
“I can’t really explain in words just how good that pole feels. A fifth Silverstone pole, equal with Jim Clark, it just feels crazy to me – it’s surreal to be up there with these legends,” Hamilton said.
“I’m so happy with how this weekend has gone. We started on the right foot straight from FP1 and we’ve built up from there. I loved the conditions in Q1 – it’s tough but those changeable conditions are so much fun. Then it was all about pushing to the limit as the track dried out, extracting everything out of the car.
“Everything has just been so perfect and I knew it was a spectacular lap – I knew that had to be it. I feel like I’m driving the best I’ve ever driven, so I hope the results start to show that. It’s been super tight recently, so to end up with a gap of seven-tenths to the Ferraris is a nice surprise.
“The home support has been incredible and I’m so proud to take pole here again. It blows me away to see all of the flags. There’s nowhere else in the world where a driver gets this kind of love and support.”
The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.
As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.
Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.
Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.
Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.
Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.
One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.
The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.