Sir Lewis Hamilton claimed a historic 100th pole position at the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, a milestone that has been reached by only 5 constructors in F1 history, nevermind by a single driver. The Mercedes driver is now 32 in front of Michael Schumachers previous record of 68 poles, which he surpassed in Italy 2017. As Hamilton has now reached this incredible total of 100 poles, it seems fitting to reminisce over some of his finest performances on a Saturday.
Written by Kallum Bates, Edited by Daniel Yi
It only seems right to start with the Englishman’s maiden pole position in Montreal. Hamilton had been thrown in at the deep end in his first season by getting a highly sought after seat at McLaren. He immediately showed promise from the first race, where he finished on the podium. His reward for his bright start to the season was an incredible pole position in Canada, where he took the top spot by 4 tenths of a second from his teammate Fernando Alonso. It had been coming since the start of that season so there was no surprise to see the Brit take pole in Canada. He went on to take his maiden win in the race which put him in contention for the 2007 title which he eventually missed out on by one point.
5 years and a world championship win later, came another of Hamilton’s greatest qualifying performances, where he took pole position in an unfancied McLaren car at the time. It looked an inferior car compared to the Red Bull, but Lewis pulled out one of his classic qualifying performances to take the top spot. He beat his closest rival Pastor Maldonado by nearly half a second and championship contender Sebastian Vettel by 6 tenths. After his impressive qualifying display, Hamilton led the race until lap 22, where his gearbox failed and therefore retired from the race, which took the shine from his simply incredible qualifying lap the day before. This was one of his 5 retirements during the 2012 season which ended with him parting ways with McLaren.
The qualifying session for the 2017 Italian Grand Prix was utterly brilliant. The heavens had opened in Monza on the morning of qualifying, which meant that the fans had to wait for the start of the session. When qualifying got underway the conditions were still treacherous, with cars aquaplaning off the track. The session was soon red flagged and we were forced to wait again. The session eventually got back underway and Hamilton was the driver setting the pace in the wet. When it came to the Brit’s final lap in Q3, he sat 3rd on the timesheets but still had provisional pole because of grid penalties for the Red Bull drivers. Hamilton still wanted to finish top of the timesheets and his final flying lap was 1.1 seconds faster than 2nd placed man Max Verstappen. This was not only one of his greatest qualifying performances, it was also the session where he beat Michael Schumacher’s previous record of 68 pole positions, a huge milestone in his illustrious career.
In 2018 as a 4 time world champion, and having the record number of pole positions, you would imagine that Hamilton would have been the overwhelming favourite to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, however this was far from the case. As most F1 fans know, Singapore had always been a difficult track for Mercedes even with the dominance that they had at every other track in the turbo hybrid era. Both the Red Bulls and Ferrari’s looked much quicker in practice and even in the early stages of qualifying, and it looked like the Mercedes were in for a similar result to the previous year where Hamilton started 5th and was 7 tenths off the pace of Sebastian Vettel. Despite the odds being stacked against the Englishman, when it mattered most in Q3, he managed to deliver what is recognised by many as his finest qualifying lap, as he shocked everyone by going 6 tenths faster than anyone else at the time. Verstappen improved to get within a third of a second, but it wasn’t remotely close enough to trouble Hamilton.The Mercedes driver even said himself that it was probably his best ever lap, which confirms how impressive it was. He converted the pole position to a win, with a 9 second gap to Max Verstappen. A weekend that will live long in the memory of F1 fans as a Lewis Hamilton masterclass.
The latest of Hamilton’s incredible qualifying performances came in the second race in Austria at the start of the strange 2020 season. The lack of atmosphere didn’t disrupt the drivers, who put on a great show in the tricky conditions at the Red Bull ring. It was car number 44 that set the pace in the early stages of qualifying after a difficult start to the season for the 6 time world champion at the time. He needed to respond after losing out to Valterri Bottas in the previous qualifying session at the same track and he did it in style. It was a battle between himself and Max Verstappen, and the dutchman set the initial pace in Q3 before Hamilton improved his time significantly, setting three purple sectors. Both drivers had time for 1 more run in Q3 and Max matched Hamilton’s previous lap in the first two sectors before losing control of the car in the last 2 corners. But to put the result beyond any reasonable doubt, Lewis once again bettered his lap time by 4 tenths of a second to take pole position by a career best 1.2 seconds. This set the tone for the 2020 season where he went on to take many more impressive poles, 10 of the 17 available, and to take a record equalling 7th world title
These are just some of the 7 time world champion’s best qualifying performances and there are so many more. Hungary 2018 in the wet for example, Belgium 2020 where he took pole by over half a second to his teammate Valterri Bottas and Italy 2020 where he set the fastest lap time in F1 history. So many so far and so many seemingly yet to come for the most successful driver in F1 history. Which one of these poles is your favourite?