Lewis Hamilton poses with an Ayrton Senna race helmet that was handed to him after he qualified on pole in Canada. Photo: Valdrin Xhemaj, EPA

MONTREAL – Lewis Hamilton reeled off a stunning set of record-breaking laps on Saturday to claim pole position for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix and draw level with his hero Ayrton Senna’s total.

The three-time champion Briton steered his Mercedes to a fastest time of one minute and 11.459 seconds to outpace nearest rival and world championship-leading German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by 0.330 seconds.

Both men clocked the first-ever times recorded at under one minute and 12 seconds at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

It was Hamilton’s third pole this year, his sixth in Canada – equalling the record of German Michael Schumacher – and the 65th of his career, equalling the record set by Brazilian legend Senna.

Four-time champion Vettel did his best to grab pole, but had to settle for second ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, and his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.

“I am so happy,” said a delighted Hamilton. “Montreal has been good to me over the years, and it was a close battle with the Ferraris.

“They have been very quick. My lap? It was a sexy lap… A great lap!”

Hamilton secured his maiden Formula One victory in Montreal 10 years earlier in 2007, and will be racing for his sixth win at the circuit in Sunday’s race.

Lewis Hamilton set a new lap record in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo: Andre Pichette, EPA


To mark his success in equalling Senna’s record – leaving only Schumacher’s record 68 poles to beat – Hamilton was presented with one of Senna’s helmets after the session, on behalf of the Senna family.

An emotional Hamilton said: “I am shaken.”

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fifth fastest ahead of his Red Bull teammate Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams, Mexican Sergio Perez and his Force India teammate Frenchman Esteban Ocon, and German Nico Hulkenberg of Renault.