Schumacher’s old teams, Ferrari and Mercedes, show support

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Ferrari and Mercedes, who both worked with seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher over the course of his career, have each issued statements wishing their former driver well.

It was at Ferrari that Schumacher (pictured, from 2004) claimed five consecutive World Championships from 2000 to 2004 and became the most dominant driver of his era.

Following his first retirement in 2006, Schumacher would eventually return to the sport with Mercedes for a three-year run from 2010 to 2012 before leaving F1 for a second time.

“Everyone at Ferrari has been in a state of anxiety since hearing about Michael Schumacher’s accident,” said the Scuderia’s statement from Maranello. “That includes the president, Luca di Montezemolo, who through the Scuderia team principal Stefano Domenicali is in constant contact with the family and those close to the German champion.

“Montezemolo has offered his encouragement and support at this very difficult time, with the hope that better news will come soon.”

In its own statement, Mercedes said its team was “shocked” to learn of the severe injuries sustained by Schumacher in a skiing accident Sunday in France.

Schumacher remains in critical condition and is in an induced coma at a hospital in the French city of Grenoble.

“Following the serious injuries sustained by Michael Schumacher in a skiing accident yesterday in France, the thoughts and sympathies of all at Mercedes-Benz Motorsport and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team are with Michael, his family and friends,” the statement said.

“We have been shocked to learn that he is in a critical condition and are closely monitoring the latest medical bulletins from Grenoble. We all know the depth of Michael’s fighting spirit and send him all our strength and support in this latest battle. We sincerely hope that he will make a full recovery and will be with us again soon.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.