Lewis Hamilton has etched his name into Formula One folklore after equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record by securing pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The triple world champion, competing here in his 200th race, delivered a dominant performance to soar to the top of the order at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and claim the 68th pole of his glittering career.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who earlier on Saturday committed his long-term future to Ferrari, will join his rival Hamilton on the front row, with the pole-sitter’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third.
Hamilton has been in a buoyant mood on the sport’s return to action following its summer hiatus, and the 32-year-old Englishman, as he has so often done during his decade-long career, provided the goods when it mattered the most with a record-breaking lap.
Hamilton’s best time of one minute and 42.553 seconds enabled him to finish one quarter of a second clear of Vettel, who pipped Bottas in the closing moments of the session.
F1 director Ross Brawn, the English mastermind behind Schumacher’s seven championship triumphs at Benetton and then Ferrari, delivered a congratulatory message on behalf of the German’s family.
Little is known of Schumacher’s condition after he suffered severe head injuries following a skiing accident more than three years ago.
"They want to congratulate you on equalling Michael’s record, and as Michael always said, records are there to be beaten,” Brawn said.
Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 14 points in the championship, replied: “It is special. To hear the message that Ross just gave I have to say a big thank you.
"I think and pray for Michael all the time. I’ve had the privilege of racing with him and always admired him and still do.
”I’m just honoured to be up there with him now in the poles, but he will still be one of the greatest of all time.”