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Hamilton roars to record GP pole

SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton roared to a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix pole on Saturday and then cheered on England’s World Cup quarter-final win in Russia.

England’s Harry Kane heads the ball during the quarterfinal match between Sweden and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Samara Arena, in Samara, Russia. England won, 2-0. (AP)

England’s Harry Kane heads the ball during the quarterfinal match between Sweden and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Samara Arena, in Samara, Russia. England won, 2-0. (AP)

In a keenly-fought qualifying shootout in sweltering conditions, the Englishman, in a Mercedes, secured pole by outpacing Sebas­tian Vettel of Ferrari by just 0.044 seconds.

Soon afterwards, he pulled on an England football shirt and celebrat­ed with compatriots in his Mercedes team offices as England reached the World Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Sweden in Samara.

Hamilton posted a picture on Twitter and added: ‘‘YES!!! Get in!!! Keep pushing boys. Let’s make this an unforgettable day for English sport.’’

The world champion, who trails Vettel by one point in the drivers championship, paid tribute to the crowd at Silverstone.

‘‘I couldn’t have done it without you guys,’’ said Hamilton, shaking with emotion as he spoke just sec­onds after climbing from his car.

‘‘These guys are the best. Man, I gave it everything I could and it was so close with these Ferraris. I was just praying I could do it for you…’’

His performance and his reac­tion prompted memories of fellow-Briton Nigel Mansell’s claim that ‘people power’ had carried him to victory at Silverstone, notably af­ter a dramatic triumph in 1987.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said he believed the crowd support for Hamilton made a difference.

‘‘The atmosphere this afternoon was incredible,’’ he said. ‘‘Every time Lewis passed, you could hear the crowd cheering above the noise of the cars and that support prob­ably made the difference.

‘‘In the end, he was just 44 thou­sandths ahead of Sebastian.’’

Mansell won the British Grand Prix four times, but his record of five wins is shared by Scot Jim Clark (1962-65 and 1967), Frenchman Alain Prost (1983, 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1993) and Hamilton (2008 and 2014-17).

Another Hamilton win on Sunday would give him the outright record of six wins including five in a row.

‘‘For me, this feels like one of the best laps that I have been able to produce,’’ he told reporters.

‘‘It felt like the most pressurised lap I have ever had. I was shaking through the emotion and the adren­alin rush, which was way above the limit of what I had experienced. ’It’s my 76th, but it’s so special.’’

The defending four-time world champion enlarged his record total of career poles to 76 with a daz­zling record lap under pressure in the closing seconds.

He and Vettel, who was strug­gling with a sore neck, had traded record fastest laps until he clocked his final and best lap in his Mer­cedes in one minute and 25.892 seconds to outpace Vettel of Ferrari by 0.044 seconds.

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