Lewis Hamilton takes 91st F1 pole position for British GP

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SILVERSTONE, England — Lewis Hamilton set a new track record at the British Grand Prix and clinched a record-extending 91st pole position Saturday.

He needs five more wins to equal Michael Schumacher’s Formula One record of 91 GP wins. The defending champion is also odds-on to equal the F1 great’s record of seven world titles.

He clocked a time of 1 minute 24.303 seconds at the Silverstone circuit where he was won a record six times.

“This track is just awesome,” Hamilton, 35, said. “It’s like juggling balls when you’re on a moving plate.”

The six-time series champion was 0.313 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and about 1 second faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

“They were just way too fast,” Verstappen said of Mercedes. “You just have to accept that and do the best you can.”

Charles Leclerc gave Ferrari a small boost with fourth ahead of Lando Norris, who could face a grid penalty after failing to slow down under a yellow flag in the second part of qualifying when Hamilton made a rare mistake. He spun and sent gravel spraying, bringing the session to a brief halt after Bottas had set the quickest time.

Vettel, who had problems with understeering and almost went off the track toward the end of Q3, was only 10th fastest in qualifying.

Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished 12th ahead of Racing Point’s last-minute replacement Nico Hulkenberg. After losing his seat in F1 this year, Hulkenberg is driving because Sergio Perez tested positive for the coronavirus following a trip back to his native Mexico after his mother had an accident.

Nicolas Latifi’s Williams span off the track near the end of Q1, the latest incident in the Canadian driver’s difficult start in F1.

“It’s just a driver error, no excuses,” he said.

Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen were also among the five drivers eliminated from Q1.

Earlier, Bottas posted the fastest time in third and final practice ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen in somewhat cooler conditions following Friday’s stifling heat.

Vettel was a miserable 14th, once again coming into the garage for repairs after a similar problem with the car’s pedals on Friday.

The fourth race of the season again is being held without fans because of virus restrictions.

“It doesn’t feel like a British Grand Prix in that respect,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “The atmosphere obviously isn’t here.”

Mercedes won the first three races, Bottas clinching the season-opener in Austria and Hamilton winning the next two in Austria and Hungary.

Like Austria, Britain is hosting back-to-back races at Silverstone.