Lewis Hamilton one pole away from Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 record

The top three qualifiers for the British Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton (centre), and Ferrari team-mates Kimi Raikkonen and ...
MARK THOMPSON/ GETTY IMAGES

The top three qualifiers for the British Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton (centre), and Ferrari team-mates Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton has moved to within one pole position of matching Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 record after driving a sensational lap at his home British Grand Prix.

The pole position claimed at Silverstone on Saturday (NZT Sunday) was on a drying track after steady drizzle throughout the morning. It was Hamilton's 67th, one shy of the German great's 68 career pole positions.

Hamilton's championship-leading Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, who has a 20-point advantage after nine of 20 races, qualified third for Sunday's race (NZT Monday). 

Lewis Hamilton drives Mercedes car 44 in qualifying at the British Grand Prix.
CLIVE MASON/ GETTY IMAGES

Lewis Hamilton drives Mercedes car 44 in qualifying at the British Grand Prix.

Hamilton was half a second quicker than Ferrari's second-placed Kimi Raikkonen and his time of one minute 26.600 seconds was so outrageously quick there were gasps before the crowd erupted.

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"I always try to leave the best to last," the British Mercedes driver told retired champion Jenson Button in post-qualifying interviews.

"I needed to make sure I got that lap in. I didn't do in the last race [in Austria] so I really made sure I saved it this weekend."

Vettel recognised Hamilton had been out of reach.

"I think he owned the pole position today," said the German.

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Hamilton still faced a nervous wait while stewards investigated an incident involving Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who complained he had been blocked by the Mercedes driver.

They swiftly decided to take no further action, to Grosjean's evident disgust.

"I was impeded today. Maybe if it was another driver there would have been something," he fumed.

The Briton's mastery lit up an overcast afternoon and the pole was the 67th of his career and sixth of the season, giving him every chance of equalling Schumacher's record 68 before the August break.

The triple world champion has won the last three British Grands Prix and can equal the late Jim Clark's feat of four home wins in a row, and five in total, in Sunday's race (NZT Monday).

Hamilton's qualifying win ensured he has matched Clark's 50-year-old British record of five home pole positions.

GREAT CROWD

"I feel amazing in front of a great crowd like this. I hope you liked the lap," Hamilton told the grandstands full of cheering fans.

"I generally like it to be dry but I quite like the conditions when they're tricky. These are typical English conditions. This is where I grew up, this is what we grew up racing in."

Hamilton's Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, winner in Austria, was fourth fastest but has a five-place penalty following a gearbox change.

That promoted Red Bull's Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who has suffered five retirements in the last seven races, to the second row.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and his former Force India team mate Sergio Perez filled the third row.

There was good news for beleaguered McLaren, who raised a cheer when Fernando Alonso made the most of improving conditions to set the fastest time in the first phase of qualifying, with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne qualifying ninth.

That was the first time he had outqualified Alonso, who has a 30-place grid penalty, and will move up a place thanks to Bottas's drop.

"It was nice to hear people cheering. It's good for the guys in the garage as well," said Alonso.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, winner in Azerbaijan in June, will join Alonso at the rear after a gearbox penalty followed by the car halting on track in the first phase with a suspected turbo failure and bringing out the red flags.

"Better (to have problems) today than tomorrow," said Ricciardo. "But better to not to have them at all."

 - Reuters

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