Hamilton takes record-equalling 68th F1 pole in Belgian GP qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the 68th pole position of his Formula 1 career in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday, matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time record in the process.

Hamilton produced a sensational final flying lap in Q3, with his time of 1:42.553 being a new record on this configuration of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton finished two-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari rival and drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who made big gains on his last lap but was unable to overhaul the Briton at the top.

Vettel did manage to split the Mercedes drivers, with Valtteri Bottas finishing half a second shy of Hamilton in third place.

Four-time Belgian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen was left fourth after an error on his final lap in Q3. The Finn still finished ahead of Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom struggled to challenge the front four drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg wound up seventh for Renault ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, while Jolyon Palmer’s rotten luck continued as he suffered a clutch problem in Q2 before a complete loss of oil pressure in Q3, leaving him P10 on the grid without a time to his name.

McLaren’s efforts to get Fernando Alonso into Q3 by using Stoffel Vandoorne to give him a tow down the Kemmel Straight proved fruitless when a loss of power on the Spaniard’s Honda engine caused him to slow on his final flying lap, resigning him to P11 on the grid.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were P12 and P13 for Haas, with Carlos Sainz Jr. taking 14th for Toro Rosos ahead of Vandoorne, who will drop to the back of the grid due to a litany of grid penalties totalling 65 places.

Felipe Massa’s miserable weekend at Spa continued as he dropped out in Q1, finishing 16th following a late lap from Sainz. Williams teammate Lance Stroll also fell at the first hurdle, taking P18 ahead of Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

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

2017 Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.