Lewis Hamilton equals Schumacher's 68 pole record

Championship leader Vettel, who heads Lewis Hamilton by 14 points in the title race ahead of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, will now be committed to the Italian team until the end of the 2020 season.

"All the guys from the team are looking forward to the second half of the campaign and this week in Spa will be the first of nine races that conclude the season".

"I am always game to race whoever it is, and racing against the best drivers is always a great thing".

"Ferrari have been the most consistent this year and that's why they are leading", Hamilton added. "I am sure we will see Kimi on the top step of the podium before the end of the season, and everyone at Ferrari is working hard for the title".

Each has won four races and their rivalry has been characterised by mutual respect with a "road rage" flare up in Azerbaijan where Vettel banged wheels with Hamilton after hitting the back of his auto while the safety vehicle was deployed, although Vettel subsequently apologised.

"I've been around in the paddock for a while so I know people; it's natural that you talk".

More news: Plants that bring colors to winter

"There is another new element in the team and it works", Hamilton, whose relationship with Rosberg was far more intense, told reporters. In those moments Mercedes and Ferrari went to pit-lane, and Hamilton and Bottas took soft tires, while Ferraries had ultra soft. Now I want to convert it into a win in the race.

"Now, to think I have equalled him on poles is very surreal and very much a humbling experience, particularly knowing that Michael is such a legend".

But Hamilton appeared unconvinced that Vettel, who enjoys clear number one status at Ferrari, will replace Bottas next season.

"We were not allowed to do anything for two weeks, but now our engineers are in demand", he said. 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.

Seven-time world champion Schumacher did not take his first F1 pole until the 1994 Monaco GP, almost three years after joining the field, with his last coming at the 2006 French GP.

The news of Vettel's signature could also have a knock-on effect on Mercedes.

  • Tabitha Byrd