SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Lewis Hamilton equaled Michael Schumacher's Formula One record of 68 pole positions in style, leading qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix from start to finish on Saturday.
The three-time F1 champion was already ahead when he went even faster with a final lap for Mercedes, but Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel limited the damage with a fine lap to join Hamilton on the front row. Valtteri Bottas was third and Kimi Raikonnen fourth.
Hamilton, who races his 200th GP today and trails Vettel by 14 points overall this season, was quick to praise Schumacher.
"It's very surreal and very much a humbling experience, knowing Michael's such a legend," Hamilton said. "I have always admired him. I am honored to be there with him now on pole positions, but he will still be one of the greatest of all time."
Hamilton was met on the track by Ross Brawn, the F1 managing director of motorsports, who delivered a special message of praise to Hamilton from Schumacher's family.
"Schumacher always said records are there to be beaten and they want to say a special 'thanks,' " Brawn told Hamilton.
The condition of the 48-year-old Schumacher's health remains closely guarded among family and close associates. He sustained severe head injuries while skiing in France on Dec. 29, 2013, and has been cared for at his home in Switzerland since September 2014.
"I pray for Michael and his family all the time," Hamilton said.
In other news, Vettel, 30, extended his Ferrari contract for three years, through 2020. No additional details were given.