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Canadian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton securing pole position adds fuel to thrilling World Championship race

After a breathtaking qualifying session on Saturday, the stage is all set for a thrilling Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal late on Sunday evening. Lewis Hamilton stole pole position from championship leader Sebastian Vettel by registering the fastest qualifying lap-time in the history of the circuit, just three tenths of a second faster than Vettel's Ferrari.

But it was not the almost-perfect Q3 laps that later made Hamilton emotional in front of a large crowd. The British driver equalled his hero Ayrton Senna's second-place record of 65 pole positions on Saturday, leading to Senna's family gifting him a real helmet worn by the Brazilian driver. It was a moment well-earned, considering Hamilton started his Formula One career exactly 10 years ago on this track.

On being presented the helmet, he said, "Wow," dropping his driving gloves in amazement. “I’m shaken. Speechless. I know that Ayrton was for many of you your favourite driver, and he was the same for me. He was the one who inspired me today, so to match him and to receive this is a great honour."

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched pole position while Sebastian Vettel came in second. AP

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched pole position while Sebastian Vettel came in second. AP

This performance now opens up the World Championship once again, as Hamilton trails Vettel by 25 points in this year's drivers' standings, with both drivers well ahead of their respective teammates. This is perhaps the first time in almost three seasons that Mercedes are experiencing such strong competition from another team, but not many Formula One fans will have much to complain.

Vettel, however, remains convinced that Ferrari has the pace to win Sunday's Grand Prix du Canada, as it is officially called. Before Saturday, it was Vettel who set the pace here as Ferrari dominated the final practice at Montreal on Friday.

"I’m not so happy with the last run I had,” said Vettel, “It was a good qualifying session, though." Ferrari will be looking for their first win here since 2004. On the constructors' standings too, Ferrari leads the charts now with 196 points, ahead of Mercedes by a mere 17 points.

As usual, Red Bull were best of the rest on Sunday, with Max Verstappen pipping teammate Daniel Ricciardo for fifth place, and Williams' Felipe Massa seventh ahead of the Force India's Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

Fernando Alonso, who once again hinted this weekend that he may quit McLaren and F1, was 12th on his return to to the sport after missing the Monaco Grand Prix, well ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in 16th.

But on a lighter note, all was not sad for McLaren, which ended its long victory drought in this year's F1 races on Saturday night by winning the resurrected teams' boat race in Montreal. Other than Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India, all teams — including one from the FIA — participated in a traditional raft race which was hosted for the first time since the 1990s.

Like the boat race, the Canadian Grand Prix has a unique character that has made it survive in the F1 calendar since 1967. First staged at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, the race has undergone a lot of changes, changes that prove how important the circuit has been to the sport.

The rivalry between French and English speaking Canada in the 1960s meant that the Grand Prix had to alternate between two venues every year, Mosport Park and Mont-Tremblant. By 1970, however, Mont-Tremblant was deemed too dangerous to drive on and the race was moved full time to Motorsport Park because of safety concerns.

In 1977, the French Canadians, motivated by the incredible racing success of Gilles Villeneuve, decided it was about time they built a track too. But building a new circuit simply wasn't economically feasible then.

The solution they came up with turned out to be simple and effective: taking the Ile Notre-Dame, they connected all the island's roads and made a circuit. The island was full of expensive constructions and was home to some very rich Canadians. It was, as everyone agreed, the perfect venue for a Grand Prix.

In 1978, after similar safety concerns with the Mosport circuit, the Canadian Grand Prix moved to its current home on the Notre-dame island. In his first season with Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve, who was yet to win an F1 race, ended the 1978 race with a memorable debut victory. After his tragic death in 1982, the track was renamed in his honour.

Since then, the track has seen some of the best moments modern racing has had to offer. Michael Schumacher holds the record of having won seven times here, followed by Hamilton's five and Nelson Piquet's three.

But perhaps the circuit is best known among F1 fans and others because of its Wall of Champions. The final corner of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve became famous after many world champions crashed into the wall through the decades.

In the 1999 race, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed into the same wall which had the slogan Bienvenue au Québec (Welcome to Quebec) painted on it. The wall soon became ironically known as Wall of Champions.

Among the current drivers, Nico Rosberg, Carlos Sainz, Jenson Button and Vettel have all crashed into this wall, at different points.

All in all, an exciting Canadian Grand Prix is in on the cards on Sunday as teams will try and advance their positions on the unpredictable points charts midway along the 2017 season.

Updated Date: Jun 11, 2017 17:06 PM

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