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.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”