Lewis Hamilton claimed his 69th career pole position Saturday to break the Formula One record previously held by his childhood idol, Michael Schumacher.
Maintaining his focus after a 2 1/2-hour rain delay at the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton finished more than a second ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull in difficult, wet conditions.
Daniel Ricciardo in the other Red Bull qualified third, although both Red Bulls are taking grid penalties for engine changes.
Verstappen had taken the top spot just before Hamilton’s final lap, so when Hamilton reclaimed the leading position he rapidly pumped his fist multiple times before slowing down and waving to the crowd.
“These guys definitely made me work for it,” Hamilton said. “The weather was obviously incredibly tricky for us all.
“There was a lot of pressure for that last lap so there was a lot to risk but I gave it everything,” the Mercedes driver said.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
Hamilton set the record in Monza of all circuits, where Schumacher remains beloved by the legions of Ferrari fans who attend this race each year.
Schumacher won five of his record seven world championships with Ferrari from 2000-04 and the automaker is celebrating its 70th anniversary this weekend.
Last weekend win
Fresh off his win in Belgium last weekend, Hamilton is looking to erase his seven-point deficit behind championship leader Vettel.
Hamilton established the record in just 201 races, far fewer than Schumacher’s 308. Still, the Briton has a long way to go to match Schumacher’s record of 91 race wins, although he stands second with 58.
The late Ayrton Senna is third on the all-time poles list with 65.
It’s also the fourth straight year that Hamilton will start first in Monza and it was his sixth pole overall on the track, breaking another record held by Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio.