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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.