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.

EXCLUSIVE: NHRA’s Don Schumacher, all 7 of his drivers to donate brains for concussion research

From left, DSR Top Fuel drivers Leah Pritchett, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher. Photos courtesy Auto Imagery.
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In a collective large-scale move never before seen in motorsports or any other form of professional sports, NHRA drag racing team owner Don Schumacher and all seven of his drivers have pledged in writing to donate their brains upon death to the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF), NBCSports.com’s MotorSportsTalk has learned exclusively.

The pledges were all signed this afternoon at suburban Denver’s Bandimere Speedway, site of this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals.

Team owner Don Schumacher (in red shirt) and his seven Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers sign written pledges to donate their brains for concussion research Friday at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver.

Don Schumacher Racing is the second-most successful team overall in NHRA history, with 11 Top Fuel and five Funny Car championships, as well as over 300 combined nitro national event wins by all seven of its drivers (as well as retired driver Gary Scelzi).

This is the first time an NHRA driver, owner or team has announced they will donate their brains to science for further study on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which can only be detected and diagnosed after death.

However, more than 3,000 current and former athletes in other sports have already pledged their brains to research post-mortem, including NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., U.S. Women’s Soccer Team star Brandi Chastain, and several former NFL Pro Bowlers including Randy Cross, Keith Sims, Shawn Springs and Gary Fencik.

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. plans to donate his brain to CTE research

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision inspires NASCAR Hall of Famer to donate brain for CTE research

While concussions are not a widespread problem in the NHRA as in, for example, the NFL, they still happen from time to time.

With the g-forces, high-speed explosions and crashes and intense vibrations Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers endure while exceeding 330 mph in 1,000 feet, concussions are always a threat, but that threat is usually mitigated by the safety equipment found in the race cars.

Don Schumacher Racing’s Funny Car drivers, from left, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps and Matt Hagan.

In pledging their brains, Schumacher and his seven drivers will also “immediately begin a comprehensive brain monitoring process to ensure an in-depth brain profile upon donation,” according to a team statement.

DSR’s pledges coincide with CLF Project Enlist, a new program launched this week by CLF and Infinite Hero Foundation (IHF) a non-profit organization (and a partner of DSR) that assists military veterans returning from battle and their families. IHF’s main goal is to “accelerate research on traumatic brain injury (TBI), CTE and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in military veterans.”

DSR and Project Enlist are conducting recruiting and outreach to military and veteran communities to increase participation in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs-Boston University-Concussion Legacy Foundation (VA-BU-CLF) Brain Bank brain donation registry.

The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is the world’s largest CTE brain bank specializing in research into concussions, ALS, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Schumacher, who was one of the sport’s most successful drivers in the 1960s and 1970s, has since gone on to build a vast business and racing empire that employs over 2,000 individuals. He is also regarded as one of the top innovators in performance and safety in drag racing.

“Donating my brain for research to help other individuals in this world is something that I’m more than willing to do,” said Don Schumacher, who was recently named to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s Class of 2019. “It surprised my wife, Sarah, but she also agreed to me doing this based on its potential to help drivers, soldiers, business people and the population of the world.

Team owner Don Schumacher.

“I support (the CLF) 100 percent and was thrilled that my seven drivers agreed to donate their brains.”

Here are comments from all of Schumacher’s seven drivers who have pledged to donate their brains to research post-mortem:

Tony Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster: “I think any athlete donating their brain is a great idea once you’re done with it here on earth. If people can come up with a better system, and a better way to keep future drivers safer, that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to improve our world. The doctors and the technology with all athletes right now, they’re diving in deep to come up with concussion research, and as a driver that goes through 11,000-horsepower, 2.5-Richter scale shaking every single run, I think we’re good candidates to research.”

“Fast Jack” Beckman, driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car: “My wife didn’t take the news that I was pledging my brain quite the way I thought. Apparently, she wants to have me stuffed and put in the corner of our living room (he said with a laugh), but (growing serious) I’ve been an organ donor since I was 16. My thought is, if it can help somebody else, that’s fantastic. When you see these veterans coming back with traumatic brain injuries and PTS, and there’s no one cure for this, it makes you realize how much more we still need to learn about the human brain to have effective treatments for the majority of the injured vets. To be a part of that in some small way; well, I can’t take my brain with me, haven’t used it since I started driving a Funny Car (he said with another laugh), so someone else might as well take advantage.”

Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car: “When approached with the chance to help the Concussion Legacy Foundation and have an opportunity to help with advancing the study, treatment, and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes as well as other at-risk groups, we said ‘yes’ without hesitation. The Concussion Legacy Foundation is a group of dedicated people doing great things to help the next generations to come, and we’re proud to help in any way we can.”

Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster: “We always want to do whatever we can to help elevate the safety in our sport, and be proactive in bettering the safety for all.”

Matt Hagan, driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car: “I think it’s pretty cool to donate anything to science. My brain is kind of mush anyways (jokes). Anytime we can do something to help is a good thing and being able to have research off of how your brain is affected by g-force and things like that, is interesting. Driving a nitro Funny Car is not something just anybody gets to do. There are only maybe 50 people in the world that really, truly experience the g-forces we do on a regular basis. These cars are extreme, we put on a show, and we put our bodies through elements that most people will never even understand. If we can help with the research of concussions and saving lives, that’s a great thing, and I’m all about it.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car: “I elected to donate my brain because of all of my years of racing, suffering explosions and experiencing tire shake. If the Concussion Legacy Foundation can learn something that would help the next generation, I would be very proud to be a part of that. Tying it in with the soldiers who experience traumatic brain injuries, if we can work together and help one another, I think it’s a great opportunity for the road to recovery for everyone.”

Leah Pritchett, driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster: “When I was first asked if I would be open to donating my brain for future research, there wasn’t even a question in my mind at all. All of us are safer in our passenger cars and safer in our race cars because of what we’ve been able to learn from the past. We get to do what we do and are safe because of technology and science. If I have a legacy to leave behind, and it can benefit anybody in any way, from the sports community to the military to a child that wants to play football, whatever it may be, once I’m gone, I won’t need my brain so I’m proud to know that it will benefit others.”

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