Suzuka opens up a fresh view for Hamilton

By Abhishek Takle
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton returns to the pit during the qualifying session of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool

By Abhishek Takle

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton completed his collection of a pole position at every current Formula One circuit with a record lap at Suzuka on Saturday.

The Formula One world championship leader had never before secured the top slot at the circuit, taking his only previous Japanese pole at Fuji with McLaren in 2007, but he can now look forward to a new sensation.

"I’ve never really had this view here," the 32-year-old said on the starting grid after qualifying.

"It’s incredible for me...10 years or whatever it is, my first pole position here.

"Tenth time lucky, so I’m grateful for that," added Hamilton, his sums only slightly out. Fuji also hosted the 2008 Japanese round.

The Mercedes driver rectified the omission with a lap of one minute 27.319 seconds, 1.6 quicker than the previous best ever qualifying time set by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in 2006.

On the front row last year alongside now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg, the Briton will finally have that completely unimpeded view down to the circuit’s fast, sweeping first corner.

Suzuka has already been an eye-opening experience this year for Formula One drivers who are relishing hurling their faster, wider cars with fatter tyres around the circuit’s high speed sweeps and quick changes of direction.

"This track has always been one of the greatest, if not the greatest, circuits," said Hamilton, whose lap on Saturday was over three seconds quicker than last year’s pole.

"And with this car it’s just mind blowing."

For Hamilton, who leads Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by 34 points in the overall standings with five races to go, Saturday also provided some relief after Mercedes struggled for speed at the last two races.

It will also have given him confidence he can extend his advantage over Vettel, the third-fastest car in qualifying but promoted after Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas took a penalty.

It certainly made an impression on Rosberg, who is at Suzuka this weekend as a TV pundit and beat Hamilton to victory and the title last year.

"He’s just one of the best of all time, in qualifying at least," said the German. "His pure speed is just immense.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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