ON THE TRACKS Saturday’s auto racing results and updates
Lewis Hamilton has equaled Michael Schumacher’s Formula One record of 68 pole positions, 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 blistering final lap for Mercedes, but Sebastian Vettel limited the damage with a fine lap of his own to join Hamilton on the front row. Hamilton races his 200th GP on Sunday and trails Vettel by 14 points overall this season. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, racing in front of a huge contingent of traveling Dutch fans, qualified fifth ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has extended his contract with Ferrari for three more years. The German driver, who was out of contract at the end of this season after joining from Red Bull in 2015, has a new deal until the end of 2020. Ferrari made the announcement in a statement Saturday at the Belgian Grand Prix, without giving further details. Earlier this week, Ferrari also extended Kimi Raikkonen’s contract, although only for one year. Since joining Ferrari, Vettel has won seven races — three in 2015 and four this year — and secured 28 podium finishes. Vettel’s win at the Hungarian GP before the summer break was the 46th of his career. This latest announcement ends speculation as to whether the 30-year-old Vettel was going to stay with the Italian team, or potentially make a move to rival Mercedes. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 14 points in this year’s title race, scoffed at that prospect on Thursday, saying Vettel would not want to be his teammate. Vettel and Hamilton have won four races each this season heading into Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. The news of Vettel’s signature could also have a knock-on effect on Mercedes. With Vettel unavailable, and Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo tied to contracts next year, this increases the chances of Valtteri Bottas staying with Mercedes next year.