McLaren Formula 1 claims 150th pole position 2
There might not be any championship points for pole position, but it’s the place on the grid every Formula 1 driver wants: it’s proof not only that they’re the quickest, but that when the pressure was at its most intense, when they were racing against the clock rather than wheel-to-wheel with their rivals, they delivered the perfect lap.
Lewis Hamilton took us to an important milestone at Circuit de Catalunya today: our 150th pole position. The journey to that point began just east of Toronto on September 23, 1972, when Peter Revson and Denny Hulme locked out the front row of the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in their M19Cs.
James Hunt took all 14 of his career pole positions in a McLaren, eight of them during the epic 1976 World Championship campaign that’s the subject of a forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster. Mika Hakkinen also racked up all of his pole positions while driving for us: 26 in all, on his way to winning the World Championship twice.
But our most prolific pole position man, and one of the greatest exponents of finding ‘the zone’, where drivers seem to reach a higher state of consciousness as they drive the perfect lap, was the late, great Ayrton Senna. He was responsible for 46 of our 150 pole positions, perhaps the greatest of which came at Monaco in 1988.
After a mesmerising series of laps, outqualifying his own team-mate by a remarkable margin, Senna described the experience to veteran F1 journalist Gerald Donaldson:
“I was already on pole and I was going faster and faster. One lap after the other, quicker and quicker and quicker. I was at one stage just on pole, then by half a second, and then one second — and I kept going. Suddenly, I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team-mate with the same car.
“And I suddenly realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was kind of driving it by instinct, only I was in a different dimension. I was way over the limit, but still able to find even more.”
Yes, taking pole position earns no points, but it’s all about finding perfection. And for that reason it’s almost as important to us as winning the race…