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.


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