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REPORT: Lewis Equals Schumacher’s 68 F1 Poles

REPORT: Lewis Equals Schumacher’s 68 F1 Poles

Lewis Hamilton beat rival Sebastian Vettel to take pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix and equal great Michael Schumacher's record tally of 68 Formula 1 poles.

'I'm really happy and grateful'

Lewis was the first driver into the 1m43s in Q2 and went even quicker on his opening run in the final shootout. The triple World Champion then went faster again, smashing the Spa-Francorchamps lap record with an effort of 1:42.553, +0.242s quicker than next-placed man Vettel. It is Lewis' seventh pole position of the 2017 campaign and the ninth of the season for the Silver Arrows.

"I'm really happy and grateful," said Lewis. "The past few weeks have been great and I've carried the positive energy from my holiday into this weekend.

"Until I crossed the line and got the pole I hadn't really realised that I had matched Michael's record. It's crazy to think that in 1996, when I was eleven years old, I came here to watch Michael - and now I've equalled his record.

"I'm honoured to be up there with him now and starting the second half of the season this strong is an amazing feeling. I have not really had any bad laps this weekend. But it's going to be tight tomorrow.

"Ferrari's race pace looked good yesterday, so I think it will be a lot closer tomorrow. The rundown to Turn 1 is short, but pole is still the best position to start from. I will try to make it work tomorrow."

'Congratulations to Lewis for his 68 poles'

Valtteri Bottas will start Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix from third, after clocking a 1:43.094 on his final flier to leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.

"First of all, congratulations to Lewis for his 68 poles, that's a mega achievement," said the Finn.

"Unfortunately, I didn't have the pace to fight for the pole today. I'm not sure about the reasons; I'm slightly confused as to why I haven't been able to get closer. We will need to look for a few more answers in the data.

"The balance in the car felt good, but I was lacking grip, so I was particularly struggling in the high-speed corners of sector two. I felt a lot more comfortable in the car with high fuel, so that's good for tomorrow.

"Driving the 2017 car around Spa is mega - it's so quick, I've never experienced anything like it. We are both starting in the top three, so as a team we will still try to achieve our target and that is a 1-2."

'That was a mighty lap from Lewis'

The Silver Arrows just missed out on a front-row lockout to a late improvement by Vettel, and team boss Toto Wolff reckons there is plenty more hard work to do before the weekend is out.

"That was a mighty lap from Lewis and one worthy of equalling Michael's pole position record," said Toto. "Lewis has been on top form all weekend and it was a very special moment for him to take pole position number 68. It puts him in the strongest position for tomorrow's race - but it's only the first step.

"On Valtteri's side, it has been a trickier weekend for him. We made some changes to the car after FP3 and he made a step forward with every run in qualifying, finding more and more time.

"It was looking very close for the front row, then Sebastian got the tow from Kimi in the final sector that gave him the advantage. But overall, a good pair of starting positions and a good weekend so far, with our new specification engine performing well. But the hardest bit is still to come."

'We will be fighting as hard as we can.'

Despite the team's ninth pole of the season, Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin warned against the expected long-run pace of the Ferraris come race day.

"We knew it would be a tough session with Ferrari very close to us in terms of ultimate performance," said Andrew. "So it was a question of extracting every last bit of performance from the car in order to take pole position and we managed to do that. Congratulations first of all to Lewis, it's an incredible achievement to equal Michael's record. Lewis has been happy with the car all weekend, feeling very comfortable and progressively building up to that amazing lap in Q3.

"It hasn't been so straightforward for Valtteri, who was some way off in the cooler practice conditions this morning. But we made some changes to the car and he was finding time in himself throughout qualifying; even so, there is still a gap between the two cars, so we will go through the data to understand where that time is.

"Ferrari showed very impressive pace on the UtraSoft tyre during Friday's long runs and we are expecting a close race. We have chosen a lighter wing level than them, which will help us both attacking and defending in the first and third sectors, but it will be a close battle - as we can expect for the rest of the year - and we will be fighting as hard as we can."

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