Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP with a commemorative helmet of F1 legend Ayrton Senna after he beat the previous record of 65 pole positions during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada. AFP

MONTREAL: Am emotional Lewis Hamilton admitted he felt lost for words on Saturday when he was given his hero Ayrton Senna’s 1987 race helmet after equalling the Brazilian’s career total of 65 pole positions.

“Wow, I am shaking,” said the three-time world champion, who had broken the lap record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on his way to securing pole for Mercedes in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.

“I am speechless,” added the Briton as he was interviewed after receiving the helmet on track.

“Ayrton was my favourite driver. He inspired me to be where I am today. To receive this is a great honour. Thank-you to the Senna family.”

Hamilton had become the first man to break the 1min 12sec barrier at the circuit and had to trim his time to 1:11.459 seconds to resist the challenge of championship leading Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who qualified second.

The canary yellow helmet was worn by Senna during the 1987 season when he raced for the Lotus-Honda team.

Speaking to reporters, Hamilton said: “I remember getting home from school and putting on the video tape of Ayrton Senna and I can’t believe I’m here with that many poles. The fact that I have now reached him in that area – I can’t believe it.

“It’s the most special thing I have, beyond all the trophies and everything. I am so honoured to be honoured by that family. As a kid I thought maybe, one day, I can get to Formula One and emulate Ayrton. To equal him... I just can’t believe it.”

Asked where he planned to keep the helmet, he revealed: “People don’t realise this, but all the stuff that I get... well, I live in an apartment in Monaco and there’s not a lot of space for a lot of trophies, but I definitely will have space for that one.

“It will be on my table, the centre-piece, in the living room and it will be the first thing you see when you come in.”

Hamilton’s reaction to his gift took away some of the focus on what was probably one of the fastest and finest pole laps of his career.

“It was a sexy lap, a great lap,” he said, knowing that he had proved he had rediscovered his raw speed again after a desultory weekend at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix.

“The car was difficult at the beginning of yesterday (Friday) and I felt already that I was at the limit of the car, but we sat down and studied it and worked hard to try and squeeze more juice from it.

“I sent a message to my guys to say we needed everything to be perfect, right on the point, and they did it today.

“I went for a banker lap and it was great and then I knew I had fuel for just one more lap and I worked the tyre hard and it worked perfectly.”

His fastest lap left him 0.330 seconds clear of four-time champion Vettel, who leads him by 25 points in the championship. Both drivers clocked sub 1:12 laps.

Hamilton claimed his maiden Formula One victory in Montreal 10 years ago and on Sunday seeks his sixth victory at the circuit.

“Montreal has been good to me over the years and it was a close battle with the Ferraris today,” he said. “They have been very quick.”--AFP

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