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Formula One Open Wheel

Commanding Monza Win Gives Hamilton Title Lead

Lewis Hamilton heads the 2017 drivers’ championship for the first time this season after he led Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to a dominant 1-2 finish in Sunday’s Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia 2017, humbling third-placed Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari on their home ground.

Daniel Ricciardo battled his way through from 16th on the grid to take fourth place for Red Bull, ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, while Esteban Ocon won a race-long tussle with the Williams of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa to secure sixth for Force India.

Ocon’s team mate Sergio Perez was ninth and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who dropped to the back in an early clash with Massa, recovered to complete the top ten.

Hamilton dominated the race from the start, with Bottas riding shotgun from the third lap. The Finn made a poor start but redeemed himself by snatching back fourth place by passing Raikkonen’s Ferrari round the outside of the Parabolica at the end of the opening lap. Thereafter he made short work of fast-starting Ocon, who took second from front-row starter Stroll from the grid.

As the Mercedes ran away and hid, Vettel had no answer for Ferrari and as Hamilton led Bottas home by 4.4s, after a minor scare when he thought his car lost power on the 43rd lap, the former points leader finished 36.3s behind him.

Hamilton now has 228 points to Vettel’s 225, with Bottas still in touch on 197.

Red Bull had a strong race after engine penalties had pushed them down the grid. Riccardo started on the soft Pirelli tyres, ran until the 37th lap on them, then came on like gangbusters on supersofts in the final stint. The Australian cut an 11.5s deficit to Vettel to just 4.0s by the flag, though the German told his team he’d had a problem from the halfway mark.

Verstappen had a coming together with Massa on the third lap which sent him pitwards for a replacement front wheel and tyre, but like Ricciardo he set several fastest laps, and recovered beautifully to 10th.

Between them, Raikkonen took a very distant fifth, some way ahead of a fierce fight between Ocon’s Force India, Stroll’s Williams, and their respective team mates. Only 3.6s covered the quartet by the finish.

Kevin Magnussen was a disgruntled 11th for Haas, pushed out of 10th as he and Verstappen collided in the second chicane, and he had Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso less than a second behind him. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg likewise narrowly led Carlos Sainz’s sister car home for 13th. Romain Grosjean suffered front wing damage on the opening lap and trailed in 15th, ahead of final finisher Pascal Wehrlein who had a brush with Sauer team mate Marcus Ericsson.

Ericsson had to retire near the finish, as did a very unhappy Fernando Alonso, who had a clash with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer which earned the Briton a five-second penalty. Palmer did not finish either, while Stoffel Vandoorne’s quest for a point in the other McLaren also ended in the pit lane.

 
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Formula One Open Wheel

Qualifying – Hamilton Takes Pole Record, Stroll to Start Second

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has more poles than any man in history – 69 – after topping a wet and rain-disrupted qualifying session in Monza on Saturday. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finished second and third, but after grid penalties for both, Williams rookie Lance Stroll will start the race alongside Hamilton on the front row.

Fifth fastest was Force India’s Esteban Ocon, ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne completed the top ten.

The session initially started on time, but as the rain worsened Haas’s Romain Grosjean aquaplaned off on the main straight, bringing out the red flags just four minutes in. The Frenchman was unhurt, and wheel rims aside, damage to his car was light, but his afternoon’s work was over.

Two hours and 35 minutes later, conditions were finally adjudged to be safe to resume the remaining 13 minutes and 31 seconds of Q1. Verstappen reported: “It’s better than when we started qualifying,” but had been happy to run much sooner.

Hamilton and Bottas were fastest on wets with 1m 36.009s and 1m 36.582s right into the dying moments, when the Finn went faster after switching to intermediates, with 1m 35.716s. Vettel was third on inters, in 1m 37.198s.

Raikkonen had a bit of a drama with a brake fire, and a near miss when his crew almost released him into the path of one of the Force Indias as the latter swept into its space immediately in front of the Ferrari pit.

Further down, Carlos Sainz made Q2 with 1m 39.788s for Toro Rosso, leaving Haas’s Kevin Magnussen 16th with a last-moment 1m 40.489s on inters, ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer on 1m 40.646s on wets, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 41.732s and 1m 41.875s, and Grosjean in 20th on the strength of his originally third-fastest lap of 1m 43.355s.

There was a threat of further rain at the start of Q2, so everybody was in a rush to get a time in before conditions changed again.

All the quick times came on inters, with Hamilton improving further right at the end to stay on top with 1m 34.660s, despite some rain out on the back straight. Bottas also went quicker to 1m 35.396s as Verstappen did 1m 36.113s to beat Vettel’s 1m 36.223s set quite early on.

The biggest improver was Stroll who jumped from nowhere to fifth, ahead of Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Massa. Vandoorne bumped Sergio Perez right at the end, the Mexican missing out on 10th place by two thousandths of a second to Force India team mate Esteban Ocon.

Behind the Force India’s 1m 37.582s, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was 12th on 1m 38.082s, with Fernando Alonso only running at the end to record 1m 38.202s for McLaren. That left the Toro Rossos 14th and 15th, with Daniil Kvyat on 1m 38.245s and Carlos Sainz on 1m 38.526s.

Could Ferrari beat Mercedes to the pole in Q3, giving the soaked spectators something to cheer, or would Hamilton set a new all-time record of 69?
The rain had come back, so again there were some brave tyre choices and some initially still went for intermediates – notably Ferrari and Mercedes – as the full wets made a comeback. But the rain was by now so heavy that surely the green-banded rubber was a mistake.

This was one of those sessions when times were improving continually as conditions did. Ocon, Verstappen and Hamilton all had turns at the top, but right at the end Mercedes pitted both their drivers for fresh wets. That was just as well, as Verstappen lapped in 1m 36.702s to beat Hamilton’s mark of 1m 36.913s. Team mate Ricciardo was also fast with 1m 36.841s, temporarily putting red Bull 1-2. But right at the end the triple champion put another super-neat lap together, even though he said conditions did not feel as good, and when he stopped the clocks with 1m 35.554s a sensational lap earned him a new record of 69 pole positions.

Stroll did a superb job to put his Williams fourth on 1m 37.032s, ahead of the also impressive Ocon on 1m 37.719s. Bottas didn’t get his run on new wets, so was sixth with 1m 37.833s, while Ferrari had a simply disastrous session with Raikkonen only seventh on 1m 37.987s and Vettel eighth after failing to better 1m 38.064s.

Massa was ninth on 1m 38.251s, and Vandoorne completed the top 10 with 1m 39.157s.

Both Red Bulls, of course, have heavy grid penalties for using additional power unit elements and will thus start Sunday’s race from the back of the field – likewise Hulkenberg, Palmer, Alonso and Sainz. That at least throws Ferrari a lifeline as their drivers will move up two places apiece.

And Stroll will start from the front row – the youngest driver to do so in history and the first Canadian in 19 years.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Belgium

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Belgium

  1. Mercedes (NC)
  2. Ferrari (NC)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Williams (NC)
  6. Toro Rosso (NC)
  7. Haas (NC)
  8. Renault (NC)
  9. McLaren (NC)
  10. Sauber (NC)

The Rankings reflect no movement in Ranks from the last race in Hungary and the Summer Recess.

Driver Rankings After Belgium

  1. Sebastian Vettel’s lead over Lewis Hamilton is cut in half to seven points. In spite of the season long see-saw, Vettel has been first place all season. So far.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is still in second with his advantage ahead of  Valtteri Bottas  now at 14 points.
  3. Valtteri Bottas appears to have a lock on third-place, maintaining his position as the number two Mercedes driver.
  4. Daniel Ricciardo remains in fourth but is only four over fifth-place Kimi Raikkonen.
  5. Kimi Raikkonen stays in fifth-place.
  6. Max Verstappen – still in sixth.
  7. Sergio Perez leads his teammate Ocon by nine points.
  8. Esteban Ocon remains solidly in the number eight position.
  9. Carlos Sainz, still ninth.
  10. Nico Hulkenberg holds onto tenth only two points from Sainz.

Our rankings resume in one week, after the Italian Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Belgian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  If the drivers could vote, most would select either Spa-Francorchamps or Monza as their favorite course in the championship. As one of the inaugural races in modern Formula One, Spa is an important race for the series.

The Event:  A record crowd of 265,000 watched the race this year in person. Spa is contracted with Formula One through 2018. We see no reason the contract won’t be extended for many years to come by new owners Liberty Media.

In Our Last Episode:  Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win of the season at the Hungaroring with the two Finnish drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas filling out the podium.

Qualifying:  Lewis Hamilton took his 68th career pole, tying Michael Schumacher’s all-time series record, and setting a new track speed record in the process. Sebastian Vettel’s final lap was one of the best of his career.

Start:  We have mentioned this before, but Formula One is supposed to be the premier auto racing series in the world. But, if so, why can’t they get their 20 cars all through the first lap?

Race:  It was a tight race at the front between Hamilton and Vettel, with the Briton managing to stay in front due to qualifying better, strategy and determination. Behind these two, both Bottas and Raikkonen were out driven by Daniel Ricciardo on the restart on Lap 34 and ended up on the podium instead of the Finns. Elsewhere, the Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez managed to crash together not once but twice!

Best Team:  This one is hard to call. No team had both drivers finish at the front. Hamilton was first, but Bottas came in fifth. Ouch. Vettel scored a second-place finish, while teammate Raikkonen had a fourth. So, we are going to say no one this week.

What We Will Remember:  It was Hamilton’s 200th Formula One start. He and three other drivers won their two hundredths races: Michael Schumacher (2004), Jenson Button (2011) and last year’s champion Nico Rosberg (2016). Hamilton notched his 58th victory, his fifth this season. Max Verstappen fared poorly this race as is becoming the norm. He’s now DNFed six times, all within the 12th Lap of the start. As a result, he has run fewer laps in 2017 than any of the 20 full-time racers.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s amazing to come back into the season and start on the right foot. The Ferrari was very strong today and they put on a fantastic fight. We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake. The Safety Car was driving so slow that keeping tyre temperature was very difficult. On the restart, Sebastian got a good tow, it was very close. It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best – that’s what racing is all about. I want to thank the team, I would not have been able to win today without them.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend:  “If we had ended up ahead in qualifying, then we would have had a good pace to stay in front today! I was surprised how close I could follow through the whole race. So I am a bit angry at myself, because, when the race restarted after the safety car, I was probably too close to Lewis out of Turn 1. I tried to open the gap down Eau Rouge but it’s a difficult compromise. You see the cars coming behind and you know that you need to defend, instead of focusing on attacking. At the same time I know that down the straights we are not as quick as Mercedes. So, I am not entirely happy, but after all it’s been a great weekend for the team. We don’t need to be afraid of any circuit, I believe we have the best car in terms of package. There’s still something missing but the guys in Maranello are very motivated. I think we have done the biggest improvement and a big step forward. Now we turn the page on and move on to Monza: let’s see what happens there.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari driver and second place finisher

Schedule:  The circus goes to Monza next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix on September 3rd.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

2017 Italian Grand Prix Preview

Momentum? Lewis Hamilton has a slight advantage over his title opponent, Sebastian Vettel, with five wins to his four. However, we have seen momentum change directions so frequently this season in Formula One that we are positively dizzy.

Needs A Good Run? Speaking of Ferrari, the Tifosi, those passionate race fans of Ferrari have very high expectations and are not afraid to boo any Ferrari driver who doesn’t do as well as they think he should. The Scuderia has not won at Monza since 2010, so they are likely to be ravenous for a win.

Sentimental Favorite? Italian race fans are among the most vocal and passionate in the world, so we can’t call it “sentimental.” If we had to name one though, it would be Fernando Alonzo, former Ferrari driver who brought the Tifosi their last Monza victory.

Challenges? Concerning outright speed, Monza is the fastest of all Formula One circuits. It has wickedly fast straights and challenging corners. Need I spell it out? Tire management!

Quotes:

“With the new generation of 2017 cars, we may see lower or similar top speeds to last year, but with more energy going through the tyres because of the extra downforce under the new regulations. This combination of speed and downforce defines the amount of work that the tyres have to do. The tyre choice has also been influenced by the risk of blistering at Monza, as there are plenty of braking areas in a straight line. This means that the cambered shoulder area of the tyre can easily overheat and so cause more blistering compared to other circuits. In the past Monza has given us many different types of weather, but following a very hot summer, it’s reasonable to expect more high temperatures over the weekend. How this influences tyre behaviour is likely to be a focus of free practice as the teams examine different potential strategies.” Mario Isola, Pirelli Head of Car Racing

I love Italy and I love Monza! It’s one of my favourite weekends of the season and the tifosi are amazing – they make such a special atmosphere. All the passion you feel throughout the weekend is very special. Also the track is great – you get to experience truly high speeds; you arrive very fast into the corners, with very low downforce, and it’s going to be very interesting in these 2017 cars. In many ways Italy is quite similar to the Mexico race in terms of the atmosphere and passion of the fans at the circuit. I’ve had some special days in Monza too, when I finished on the podium in 2012 and beat both the Ferraris. I guess that wasn’t great for the tifosi but I still received a lot of support when I was standing on the podium.” Sergio Perez, Force India driver

“Like Spa, Monza is one of those legendary tracks where everybody loves watching cars going racing. With the new wider, faster cars this year, it will definitely be another circuit where we’ll see a new fastest lap and some incredibly high speeds on the straights. It’s the fastest circuit on the calendar in terms of outright speed, and for a driver it’s an incredible feeling racing down those iconic straights punctuated by the tight chicanes and big, fast corners that require a huge amount of commitment. We’ve always said this circuit wouldn’t suit our package, and we expect a tough challenge. Although it’s power-hungry like Spa, it’s also different in many ways. Spa is a long race; the Monza circuit is short and sharp and the race always feels like it’s over very quickly. The thing I love most about Monza is the fans. Even when you’re not dressed in tifosi red, the fans come out in force and they’re all super passionate about racing and motorsport. The Italian Grand Prix is a favourite for many people and it really deserves its legendary reputation as a magic circuit for race fans.” Fernando Alonzo, McLaren driver

“I grew up in Italy and it’s a country I know well; it’s like a second home for me. I lived in Rome for some time when I was younger and I’m fluent in Italian, so I always enjoy going back! This race has been on the F1 calendar for many years and it’s a legendary circuit: it has very long straights, which means we drive at very high speeds, and it’s always an interesting race. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that the Parabolica doesn’t have a gravel trap any more… It’s now all asphalt, so it’s not such of a challenge and a compromise if you go off track; in the past it could end up meaning that your race was over! I have very good memories from Monza, as I won a few times while racing in junior categories, so it’s always special to go back there every year. Having said that, I also have a negative memory from 2014, when my brake disk broke at Turn 1 compromising my race to finish in P11: Starting from the last position on the grid I was able to make my way up, but not enough to score points… A big shame, as we were doing a very good race! I hope to create more good memories this year!” Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso driver

“The atmosphere in Italy is pretty awesome. I normally like more technical tracks, but Monza is still fun. It’s a track I’ve always enjoyed and it’s quite unique. The drivers’ parade in Monza is always special as well. Everyone is shouting Ferrari, but it’s still pretty awesome to experience it.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing driver.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Gelael Given Toro Rosso Practice Opportunities

Three drivers have already been given time in cars during Formula 1 practices in 2017, but another will join them in half of the remaining events.

Arden Formula 2 racer Sean Gelael will take part in four first practice sessions in the last eight races for Toro Rosso.

His period in the STR12 will begin at Singapore before continuing at the Malaysia, United States and Mexican Grands Prix.

Gelael has already been involved in two days of testing for the team as part of the sport’s rules over allowing young drivers – those with no more than two Grand Prix starts – a chance to gain mileage.

He competed on day one of the two-day Bahrain tests after the race in the country and was eighth overall with a time of 1m33.885s after 78 laps, 2.527s off the best time set by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

A second opportunity came in the session after the Hungarian event, again competing on the first day for 101 laps, setting a 1m20.341s, 2.595s behind F2 rival Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.

Team principal Franz Tost described how positive Gelael’s role was to the team.

“During the tests in Bahrain and Budapest Sean performed very well, helping the team in a very professional way, with a mature approach to the complex task of providing engineers with useful feedback,” Tost said. “Everyone within the team was impressed by his performance, his technical understanding, and his commitment.”

It is not currently confirmed which of regular drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat will step aside from their seats at each round.

A chance to practice for the Italian team is usually rare, with Kvyat and Max Verstappen’s appearances in 2013 and 2014 being indications of a future drive.

Gelael currently sits 20th in the F2 drivers’ championship after 16 races with three points.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Chaos Continues for Force India at Belgium

Eight years ago, Giancarlo Fisichella made the breakthrough performance for Force India at Spa-Francorchamps with pole position, and a second-place finish as the team grew from backmarkers to midfield competition.

In 2017, the event made memories for all the wrong reasons as drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collided for the second and third times in 2017 and had problems for a third race following Canada and Azerbaijan.

At the start of the contest, Ocon was lucky to escape without major bodywork or suspension damage after hitting the wall while going three-wide with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Perez going into the fast Eau Rouge section.

On Lap 29 of 44, after the two collided again approaching the same area of the track, moments after Ocon questioned pit strategy, causing a safety car period for debris.

As the Frenchman took to the outside to prepare for a move, the two drifted into each other, with Ocon suffering left-sided front wing damage and Perez getting a right rear puncture.

Ocon recovered to ninth later on, while the Mexican’s race ended a couple of laps from the end, classifying 17th, both being serviced under the safety car.

Due to this, team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya will deny the two the opportunity to make high-pressure decisions in future.

“I have been very happy with our overall performance during the 2017 season with both drivers scoring points for the team and racing freely,” Mallya said. “As much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances, I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team’s position in the constructors’ championship.”

Drama Spills Onto Social Media Post-Race

The clashing didn’t end on track as both used social media to give their sides of the story.

Ocon tweeted highly-emotive thoughts on the safety levels of the Mexican’s battling which could be read literally or as a joke.

At the time of the crash, he was angry at his teammate’s actions.

“Guys, what the f*ck? Honestly? What the f*ck is he doing? Front wing broken now,” he told his engineers.

Perez later released a video update on his beliefs of the incident in retaliation, taking the quote as a real accusation.

On Monday morning, Ocon gave an update to his fans.

Ultimately, the drama meant that neither was able to capitalize on Max Verstappen’s DNF, with Perez still seventh and Ocon remaining eighth in the drivers’ championship. Force India stays fourth in the constructors’, with Williams lowering their advantage over fifth to 58 points.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

The History of Formula 1’s Pole Record

Back in 2006 when Michael Schumacher took his 68th and final pole position at the French Grand Prix, the total looked like a steep obstacle for anyone to climb.

That was until Lewis Hamilton came on the scene a year later. And in his 11th season in the sport, the Mercedes pilot has joined Schumacher on the same amount after setting the fastest time at Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton set a 1m42.553s – a new lap record – to lead the grid for the race ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

He is now the second British person to take this honor following Jim Clark, and it is currently the 18th record with his surname besides it.

Coincidentally for the man who now has Bottas (No. 77) as his teammate – it is the 77th change of the record since the first pole position back in 1950.

The Beginning of the Sport

As the sport first got underway in 1950, unsurprisingly the most changes at the front of this standing happened in the opening decade of racing.

Nino Farina took the first at the British Grand Prix that year before Juan Manuel Fangio started on top in Monaco. Walt Faulkner joined them on level terms when he won the pole for the 1950 Indianapolis 500, then a part of this championship.

Fangio and Farina tied on two in the next two contests before Fangio ran away to four by the end of the year, and seven at the end of 1951.

The Fall of 1952 brought Alberto Ascari’s period with the record, stealing the accolade in Italy in September, before extending his reign in Argentina, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Germany, and Italy again in 1953.

This would not stop Fangio’s time entirely, as he came back to begin a 13-year spell in the lead by taking his 13th  in Britain in 1954 before ending his career on 29, his last in Argentina in 1958.

Clark Takes Over

Fangio’s list of achievements was quickly eradicated by Lotus’s Clark as his team became dominant in the sport in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Scot became only the second driver to reach 20 before tying with Fangio at the 1967 German Grand Prix in August.

He took the record outright at the end of that month in Canada before having the fastest times in Italy and Mexico.

His last 33rd  was at the South African Grand Prix on New Year’s Day in 1968 as his period fighting at the front of the sport was sadly cut short on April 7 that year, dying at an F2 race in Germany.

Senna’s Supremacy

Clark’s time with the accolade was the longest period – over 21 years – until Ayrton Senna took over while fighting for his second world championship.

Starting at the front in Mexico was the 33rd of his career, but this would only be the halfway point of his amount.

Nine others in 1989 extended his record to 42, before another 10 the following year, and eight in 1991.

Just two more came for him at McLaren in 1992 and 1993 in Canada and Australia, before starting first in his first three events for Williams.

Sadly, his time would also be cut short by an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, resulting in his death.

Schumacher’s Time

The final year in which Senna extended his record was the one that Michael Schumacher began his title-winning streak for Benetton.

He would be the next line in for throne, equaling the Brazilian’s tally at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.

His final campaign in the sport included claiming three more at the San Marino, United States and French races.

The date of July 16, 2006, previously stood as the last time the record changed as he ended the last three months of his career without another, and without an eighth title.

What Next?

Hamilton has reached seven so far in 2017, reached double figures in the past two seasons, and has an average of eight per calendar with Mercedes – so many will wonder whether he could reach 100 if he goes on to have a career of a similar length to Schumacher’s (1991-2006, 2010-12).

For now, his next step will be to take another and complete the passing over of the baton if he wants to ensure winning the Pole Trophy for the third time in a row.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the First Half of the F1 Season

The Big Picture:  We love a professional racing series that has recess. And time outs. Well, the time outs are an exaggeration. At any rate, Formula One has a policy that no one works on the cars for one month right in the middle of the season. So, here without further ado, here is our mid-season version of What We Learned, featuring short summaries of the races that happened, and a listing of the 20 fulltime F1 drivers, their place in the points, and what they did on their summer vacations.

The Events:

  • Australia – Ferrari strikes back, and Sebastian Vettel wins the season opener.
  • China – Lewis Hamilton scores his first grand slam victory of the season!
  • Bahrain – And then it’s Vettel’s turn to win again.
  • Russia – Valtteri Bottas mixes it up when he claims his maiden victory.
  • Spain – Hamilton wins as Vettel fumes.
  • Monaco – Vettel wins again, while Hamilton fails to place on the podium.
  • Canada – Hamilton earns his third victory of the year and second grand slam of 2017.
  • Azerbaijan – Daniel Ricciardo gets his first (and so far, only) win of the season in F1’s version of Demolition Derby. Canadian rookie Lance Stroll earns his first podium.
  • Austria – Bottas gets to win again because Hamilton had to change his gearbox thus incurring a grid penalty. By the way, this is a dumb rule.
  • Britain – Hamilton earns his third grand slam of the year in front of his home crowd and his fifth win at his home race. Delirium ensues.
  • Hungary – Vettel’s performance of the year thus far came during an otherwise boring race when the German experienced steering issues but still brought home the win. Bottas and Raikkonen both podium in front of a crowd with numerous Finns in attendance. Delirium ensues.

The Drivers and How They Spent Their Summer Vacations:

  • Fernando Alonzo – 15th place, no wins. Checked on his new museum and went to the Greek Isle of Mykonos.
  • Valtteri Bottas – 3rd, two wins, a possible title contender. Chilled at home in his native Finland.
  • Marcus Ericsson – 20th place, no points. In the UK supporting his brother, who was racing.
  • Romain Grosjean – 13th, no wins. He posed upside down on a paddle board, no idea where he was.
  • Lewis Hamilton – 2nd place, four victories,definite title contender. Jet setting, including sailing and off-road racing. Worked with UNICEF in Cuba.
  • Nico Hulkenberg – 10th, no firsts. No idea what he did.
  • Daniil Kvyat – 17th, no wins. Boating and beaches with the girlfriend.
  • Kevin Magnussen – 14th place, no wins. Flying with his grandfather and befriending farm animals.
  • Felipe Massa – 11th. No information.
  • Esteban Ocon – 8th place, no wins. Beach holiday with friends in his home country, Spain.
  • Jolyon Palmer – 19th. Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.
  • Sergio Perez – 7th. Near the ocean and fishing.
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 5th place, four podiums. No idea what he did this summer.
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 4th place, a win, five podiums. Mountain biking and then beach vacay with teammate Verstappen.
  • Carlos Sainz, Jr. – 9th. He didn’t tell us about his vacation!
  • Lance Stroll – 12th place, a podium. Golfing vacation in Turks and Caicos.
  • Stoffel Vandoorne – 18th. Went to Montenegro with friends.
  • Sebastian Vettel – 1st place, four wins. Notoriously private Vettel, of course, isn’t talking.
  • Max Verstappen – 6th, five DNFs with a podium. Let’s see, had a vacation on the beach with Ricciardo, went boating with friends, and met his fans at a Red Bull event.
  • Pascal Wehrlein – 16th – Worked out and spent time on a boat.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Qualifying – Hamilton equals Schumacher’s all-time pole record

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to first place in Saturday’s qualifying session for the 2017 Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It is the 68th pole of Hamilton’s F1 career, matching Michael Schumacher’s outright pole-position record.

A scintillating lap of 1m 42.553s – the fastest ever here – put the Briton, who starts his 200th Grand Prix on Sunday, 0.242s ahead of his championship rival, with team mate Valtteri Bottas third and Kimi Raikkonen, complaining of vibrations in the second, Ferrari fourth.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively, followed by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. A disappointed Jolyon Palmer completed the top ten, his Renault’s gearbox having failed at the start of Q3.

Hamilton owned the session and never looked like being beaten, but in the end it was a close-run thing between the three-time champion and points leader Vettel, after a gripping hour of action.

As Raikkonen immediately suffered serious vibrations on his Ferrari in Q1, Vettel set the initial pace with 1m 44.275s before Hamilton did a second run that yielded 1m 44.184s. Verstappen got closest to them, with 1m 44.535s, but had to run ultrasoft tyres to do it whereas they had both run supersofts.

Neither of the Williams made it through to Q2 – bad news on a track where their Mercedes engines should have helped. Felipe Massa recorded 1m 45.823s to head Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on 1m 46.028s, team mate Lance Stroll – hampered by bodywork issues – on 1m 46.915s, and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 47.214s and 1m 47.679s.

Hamilton narrowly headed Raikkonen, 1m 43.539s to 1m 43.700s, at the start of Q2, but a subsequent run yielded 1m 42.927s for the Briton as Bottas improved to 1m 43.249s to head the Finn, who was still complaining of vibrations. Verstappen was fourth from Vettel and a disappointed Ricciardo. To his delight, Palmer was seventh, ahead of Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon, despite a clutch problem on his Renault.

That left Fernando Alonso as the first to be out in the cold despite a decent tow up Kemmel from McLaren team mate Vandoorne. The local boy, who will start from the back of the grid thanks to engine penalties, did not record a time, while the Spaniard crossed the line complaining of no power. Nevertheless, his 1m 45.090s left him ahead of the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean on 1m 45.133s and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 45.400s. Sainz was 14th, on 1m 45.439s.

Palmer’s wretched luck returned the moment Q3 began, when his gearbox expired on his out lap. That left some oil out the back of the track, but that didn’t stop Hamilton from blasting the Ferraris with a lap of 1m 42.907s compared to Raikkonen’s 1m 43.270s and Vettel’s 1m 43.426s. Bottas split the red cars with 1m 43.358s, as Verstappen led Ricciardo with 1m 43.778s to 1m 43.925s.

Could Hamilton keep the advantage, or would Ferrari find something? He could, and they did. But not enough.

Hamilton’s next run brought him down to 1m 42.553s, which was just as well as Vettel improved to 1m 42.795s to move up to second as Bottas’ improvement to 1m 43.094s was not enough. The Finn will start alongside fellow countryman Raikkonen, who aborted his attempts to go faster, still suffering vibrations. 

Verstappen and Ricciardo both improved but stayed where they were, as Hulkenberg’s 1m 44.982s left him seventh ahead of Perez and Ocon on 1m 45.244s and 1m 45.369s respectively. The luckless Palmer will start 10th, having been unable to record a time.

A total of five drivers have grid penalties to be applied: 65 places for Vandoorne after a new gearbox and multiple power unit element changes; five places for Massa for ignoring yellow flags in FP3; five apiece for Ericsson and Wehrlein due to unscheduled gearbox changes; and 20 for Kvyat for using several new power unit elements.