Formula 1 2020: Lewis Hamilton dedicates Belgian GP pole to late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman
Meawnhile, things are going from terrible to abysmal for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc in 13th and Sebastian Vettel 14th.
Spa-Francorchamps: After clinching the record-extending 93rd pole position of his distinguished career, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton stood proudly on top of his all-black Mercedes and crossed his arms in memory of a hero of his own.
The British driver dedicated his latest exceptional drive at the Belgian Grand Prix to American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer on Friday at the age of 43.
“A superhero died last night so that was really weighing heavy on me today," Hamilton said. “I was so driven to deliver a good performance today so I could dedicate it to Chad.”
Boseman played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before inspiring audiences as the regal “Black Panther” in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise. The film inspired the cross-armed “Wakanda forever” salute that became a pop culture landmark.
“This was an important pole. I woke up today to the saddest news of Chadwick passing away,” Hamilton said. “That news broke me, so it wasn’t easy to get back focused. For what he’s done for our people and super heroes — to show the kids what’s possible in life. Wakanda forever.”
The salute was so resonant that California congresswoman Maxine Waters stood up and did it at singing legend and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin's funeral two years ago.
Hamilton, the only black driver in F1, explained the impact both Chadwick and his film character had on him.
“I was really, really lucky I got to meet him once and tell him how awesome he was. Because I remember when I was a kid, Superman was the hero, didn’t look like me and I still thought Superman was the greatest,” Hamilton said. "And so when Chad became the king, when he became a superhero, it was such a special day for so many people. Because I know that young kids would be able to now look up to him and see that it is possible.”
Boseman's death prompted an outpouring of grief and Hamilton fondly recalled the time they met.
“In New York during Fashion Week… we were out at the same dinner. We actually kind of partied away together because we were on the same table. It was an incredible scenario,” Hamilton said. “I remember when ‘Black Panther’ came out and I’m a huge Marvel fan. So just knowing how Hollywood has been for a long, long time and to see the first Black superhero come out, everyone was so proud.”
From terrible to abysmal for Ferrari
As he set a track record at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday, he finished well ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton is primed to extend his championship lead, which stands at 37 points over Red Bull's Max Verstappen and 43 over Bottas.
“I didn't make a mistake,” Hamilton said proudly.
Bottas trailed the British driver by 0.511 seconds in qualifying while Verstappen was 0.526 adrift in third.
“I need to attack if I want to keep my title hopes (alive),” said Bottas, who won the opening race of the season in Austria.
It was a strong performance from Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who starts from fourth on Sunday at the 7-kilometre (4.3-mile) track nestled in the Ardennes forest.
Things are going from terrible to abysmal for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc in 13th and Sebastian Vettel 14th.
Ferrari’s lack of form was such that Leclerc, who won last year from pole position, was happy to qualify in 13th.
“Honestly, yes. It’s sad to say that but getting into Q2 was a nice surprise. I’m starting from 13th and I think it will be difficult unless it rains,” he said.
Vettel registered the previous track record on his way to victory here in 2018, but this season the veteran German driver has not even finished in the top five in six races.
Earlier, Hamilton led the third and final practice, with Vettel last — a humbling experience for the four-time F1 champion — and Leclerc faring little better in 17th place.
While Leclerc has two podium finishes this season, Vettel is enduring his worst start since 2008. He has twice finished 10th and once 12th.
Vettel last won at the Singapore GP in September — his only victory in 2019 — and the German driver's last podium finish was in Mexico in October.
Since then he has retired in three out of nine races.
Monaco GP: Max Verstappen back on top but demands more from Red Bull
Verstappen struggled with his car in the opening practice but bounced back in the afternoon to go fastest ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Formula 1: Max Verstappen leads from start to finish to win Monaco Grand Prix
Despite brushes with the track walls, the Dutch Red Bull driver finished comfortably ahead of Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso in an Aston Martin with Frenchman Esteban Ocon third for Alpine
Monaco GP: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc demoted three grid places for blocking Lando Norris
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was demoted three places on the grid for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix after the race stewards ruled he had impeded another driver at the end of qualifying.