Hamilton: ‘Very surreal’ to match Schumacher’s all-time F1 pole record

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Lewis Hamilton has called matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time Formula 1 pole position record “very surreal” and “a humbling experience” after topping qualifying for the 68th time in his grand prix career on Saturday at Spa.

Hamilton charged to pole for the Belgian Grand Prix with a new track record in Q3, beating drivers’ championship rival Sebastian Vettel by two-tenths of a second.

The result saw Hamilton tie with Schumacher on 68 poles, reaching the tally in 40 fewer races than the seven-time world champion who retired from racing at the end of 2012.

“It’s a special day definitely,” Hamilton said. “To be honest I knew that it was on the horizon, and at some stage I would be getting that 68th pole, but I really hadn’t thought about it much.

“I didn’t apply pressure, I was like ‘it could come soon, it could take a long time’. Now being there, it’s an unusual place to be.

“I remember coming here in 1996, my first grand prix, and watching Michael come by after Turn 1 and the engine just shook my rib cage. It was incredible. That was when my love for the sport took another step.

“To think now god knows how long later, I’m equal with him on poles… it’s very surreal and very much a humbling experience, knowing Michael is such a legend.

“It’s an incredible feat that he achieved.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.