MONTREAL (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has a British passport, and lives in Monaco, but Montreal felt like home on Saturday as he celebrated his milestone 65th career pole position in Formula One.
The achievement, at a circuit that already holds a special place in his heart, matched that of his late childhood hero Ayrton Senna.
“I knew that number 65 was there in the waiting,” said Hamilton.
“I knew that Montreal has been a beautiful place and a beautiful home for me in the many years since my first win here. So I was, like, ‘if I’m going to get a pole, get that special pole, if anywhere it’s going to be here’.”
The triple world champion has regularly proclaimed his love for the Canadian city and if home is indeed where the heart is, then Montreal would provide the Mercedes driver with the perfect address.
There is no denying that Hamilton has a special level of comfort and history with Montreal and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
It was the site of his first pole and first career win. With five victories, and now six poles, the circuit has favoured him more than any other apart from the Hungaroring where he has also won five times.
Matching Senna’s career tally, on a day when he saw off a tough challenge from Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel, was emotional.
“Literally as a kid, I’d come home and, like, one day if I’m really lucky and I can get to Formula One, I’d want emulate Ayrton,” recalled Hamilton.
“The fact I’ve now reached him in that area...I just can’t believe it.”
The pole, which left him three adrift of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68, came 10 years on from the first of his Formula One career at the same track with McLaren in his rookie 2007 season.
After qualifying, Hamilton was presented in front of thousands of cheering fans with one of Senna’s race-worn helmets -- a gesture from the Brazilian driver’s family that left him moved and momentarily stunned.
Senna, also a triple champion, died in a crash at Italy’s Imola circuit in 1994.
Having already passed his idol in career victories, Hamilton described the gift as the greatest thing he has been given in racing above and beyond his trophies.
“I’ve really grown a lot with the fans here,” said Hamilton.
”There’s a lot of Ferrari fans here, as there are around the world -- but there’s a lot of Team LH fans here that have really grown with me from my first pole position, my first win in 2007.
“It’s a place I love. I really do love this track, and when you’re able to pull out a lap like that, it just cements the love that you have for it again.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin