Race to 100: How Lewis Hamilton can become F1’s first pole centurion

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Lewis Hamilton’s flawless display through the Italian Grand Prix weekend is likely to go down as being one of the most significant of his Formula 1 career.

Not only did he deliver one of the most crushing wins of the season for Mercedes on Ferrari home soil.

Not only did he take the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time this year, taking a huge stride forward in his bid for a fourth crown.

But he also strengthened his case to be considered one of F1’s all-time greats by becoming the sport’s record pole position holder.

The record changing hands for just the sixth time in F1’s 67-year history, Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s tally of 68 poles by topping qualifying for the 69th time in his career.

The enormity of the result was not lost on Hamilton, a driver who grew up watching Schumacher, but the Briton has never been a man to rest on his laurels.

“You know, Vettel’s not far behind, so I’ve got to keep going,” Hamilton said after the session.

“I’ve got to keep extending it otherwise he might catch it, and so I’ll stick around for a while and try to make life hell for him.”

He’s got the record – but just how many pole positions can Lewis Hamilton end up with before his time in F1 is over?

If he continues at his current rate, passing the 100 mark and becoming F1’s first pole centurion is definitely possible.

MONTREAL – JUNE 09: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes celebrates securing pole position during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 9, 2007 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

THE ROAD TO THE RECORD

Hamilton’s chase to become F1’s pole position record-holder has accelerated dramatically in recent years, largely thanks to Mercedes’ domination in the V6 turbo hybrid era.

Always a good qualifier, Hamilton has not gone a season in his F1 career without scoring at least one pole position, with his strongest years at McLaren coming in 2008 and 2012 (seven poles in each season). Even in his debut campaign, he was on pole six times, his first coming in Canada (pictured above).

However, it was Vettel – who is now on 48 poles – who looked most likely to break Schumacher’s record at the end of 2013, sitting on 45 by the end of his fourth title-winning campaign. Hamilton, by comparison, was 14 behind on 31.

But Mercedes’ jump on the field at the change of the engine regulations in 2014 push Hamilton’s pole chase into hyperdrive. Seven poles in 2014 saw him draw close to Vettel before overhauling the German through 2015, taking 11 poles en route to his third world title. Had Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg not been such a closer challenger, he may have broken Schumacher’s record long ago.

2016 was a title-less season for Hamilton, but another 12 poles meant Schumacher’s record was easy prey, so long as Mercedes didn’t collapse on the change of technical regulations in 2017.

While Ferrari has been its closest challenger yet and been on a par in races, the Silver Arrows retained their edge in qualifying, with Hamilton’s eighth pole of the year at Monza being enough to give him the record.

Vettel certainly has a chance of surpassing the likes of Schumacher and Ayrton Senna (65), but if Hamilton continues at the rate he’s been going at, it’ll take a mighty effort to claw away the all-time record.

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 10: Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP with a commemorative helmet of F1 legend Ayrton Senna after he beat the previous record of 65 pole positions during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 10, 2017 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

HOW HAMILTON CAN REACH 100

The kids are back to school, but now it’s time for us to do some math.

Hamilton is now on 69 pole positions, and will undoubtedly add to this tally before the season is complete. Ferrari should be closer at tracks such as Singapore and Abu Dhabi, meaning a sweep of the remaining seven races is unlikely, and you cannot discount teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Say Hamilton adds another three or four poles onto his 2017 score, he’ll be onto 72 or 73. Let’s be conservative and go with 72.

To pick up another 28 poles before calling time on his F1 career will be a challenge. Hamilton is 32 and has one year left on his Mercedes contract, and has hinted he won’t stick around forever, having interests outside of the sport in music and fashion.

But staying on for at least another two years beyond 2018 is a sensible guess. He’d be 35 by then, and would certainly have time on his side given that most stretch into their late-30s before calling it a day (e.g. Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen).

Just as much hinges on how long Hamilton sticks around, his chase for 100 is also down to how competitive Mercedes can be. If it remains the team to beat and can continue to deliver the kind of qualifying edge it has this year despite Ferrari’s resurgence, he should manage it comfortably.

The fact there will be no seismic changes to the regulations until 2021 also works in Hamilton’s favor. As seen with Mercedes in recent times and Red Bull before that, teams often retain their advantage through regulation eras – they won’t drop off the map all of a sudden.

Mercedes is pushing to become the first team to win back-to-back titles across a regulation change this year, so again, it would be a surprise to see a collapse.

31 poles through the final seven races of 2017, then all of 2018, 2019 and 2020. It’s more than doable.

Taking our assumption Hamilton will take three more poles this year (again, it could be more), then he would require 28 poles across three years.

Were Hamilton to continue his record since the start of the V6 turbo era, he would just about reach triple-figures.

Since the start of the 2014 season, Hamilton has scored 38 pole positions. Adding on our presumed three for the rest of the year, that gives him 41 across four full seasons – an average of 10.25.

Keeping that record up, Hamilton would sit on 102 poles by the end of the 2020 season (or 103 if you want to round up).

Of course, Bottas could find another gear and begin to share poles out more evenly with Hamilton at Mercedes, much as Rosberg did in 2014. Ferrari could shake off its Saturday hoodoo and become a force once again. Red Bull might get its act together and also begin to draw poles away from Hamilton.

But on the same vein, Hamilton and Mercedes might become even more dominant. He might decide to keep on racing until he is deep into his thirties, giving himself more time to pull even further clear at the top of the record list.

The point is that Hamilton can reach 100. And much as Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 grand prix victories has been deemed by most to be unbeatable, Hamilton would have a pole record that would surely cement his place as one of F1’s all-time greats.

That is if there is any question about that status already.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage