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Hamilton buoyant as late Monza Q3 gamble pays off, delivers record pole

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his happiness after a late gamble in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix delivered him a record-breaking 69th Formula 1 pole position at Monza on Saturday.

Hamilton opted to abandon his second-to-last lap in Q3 in order to set himself up for a final flyer when track conditions would theoretically be better, albeit acting as his final shot to beat pace-setter Max Verstappen.

Hamilton delivered a stunning final lap to go 1.1 seconds quicker than Verstappen, securing the 69th pole of his career in style, moving clear of Michael Schumacher to hold the outright record for poles in F1.

“It’s very hard to find the words to explain how I feel, I’m trying to figure it all out. It probably won’t sink in for a long time,” Hamilton said.

“It was an epic day, I feel truly blessed. The Red Bulls really made me work hard for the pole today, which I’m grateful for.

“The weather has obviously been incredibly tricky for us all. What a day to come here in this beautiful country with the English weather and to be massively challenged. It was very difficult to see out there, and very easy to make mistakes – as always in the rain.

“The second to last lap was OK at the beginning, but then I backed out of it, hoping that I’d get one more lap. There was a lot of pressure for that last lap. There could have been a red flag, there could have been a yellow flag. There was a lot of risk, but I gave it everything.

“A big thank you to my team for making it all possible, the guys here, the guys back at the factory for continuing to support me.

“We’ve got a lot of the sponsors here from Mercedes-Benz and Petronas who have been sponsoring and supporting me for a long, long time, so I’m really grateful for that.”

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

NBCSN will present ‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ Monday

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With motor racing reckoning with its own issues of diversity and equality, “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” will tackle the topics of social justice with several athletes. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday, July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic channel and on regional sports networks.

The roundtable discussions will be hosted by Damon Hack and feature Charles Barkley, Steph Curry, Jimmy Rollins and Ozzie Smith in one segment. The other segment will include Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins and James Blake.

Race has been a major topic in motorsports this year.

NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its race after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series. In Formula One, six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton has joined Black Lives Matter marches in London and also formed a panel on diversity. The lone Black driver in F1 also led 14 of 20 drivers taking a knee before the season opener in Austria.