Lewis Hamilton has been hailed as one of the most talented people to have ever walked the Earth after claiming the 100th pole position of his stunning Formula One career.

The seven-time world champion will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from the front of the grid after he beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.036 seconds at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas lines up third.

Five thousand and 82 days have passed since a fresh-faced Hamilton outclassed his reigning world champion McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso to take pole number one in only the sixth appearance of his brilliant debut campaign at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.

Despite being a prodigious talent, nobody would have dare predict the heights the 22-year-old from Stevenage would go on to reach. But 14 years on, Hamilton is sizing up an unprecedented eighth world championship.

He already has a greater number of wins than anyone else, and his landmark pole in Spain takes him 32 clear of Michael Schumacher and 35 ahead of the Briton’s boyhood hero Ayrton Senna in the all-time list.

Incredibly, Hamilton has two more poles than the combined efforts of double world champion Jim Clark, quadruple title winner Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, who won the championship in 1992.

“You do realise you are watching one of the most talented people to have ever walked the Earth, don’t you?” 1996 world champion Damon Hill tweeted in the aftermath of Hamilton’s extraordinary feat.

“He really is a phenomenon. I can only watch on in awe.”

Hamilton has torn up F1’s record books in the wake of his bold switch from McLaren to Mercedes at the end of 2012.

But the enormity of his achievement – his 74th pole for the Silver Arrows, a strike rate of 46 per cent – left Hamilton struggling to find the right words.

“I have been racing a long time and the 100 mark is something that I don’t think anybody, and particularly me, ever thought I would get to,” he said.

“I don’t really feel like I can compute it right now. It is a huge number and it is difficult to say how I feel. It is hard to express how amazing it is.

“But I just think about all the people that have helped me get there; the incredible group of men and women at the Mercedes factory who never cease to amaze me and continue to raise the bar.

“It is crazy that this is 100 but it felt like one of the first.

“For me, that is even more special because there have been so many qualifying sessions, so many near misses, so many mistakes and so many moments of growth.

“I feel very humbled, very grateful and I am ecstatic. I will always remember that one.”

It has become something of a cliche to say Hamilton pulled out a qualifying lap when it mattered most but in Barcelona he did it again with Verstappen poised to spoil his centurion party.

His fellow knight, Sir Jim Ratcliffe – one-third owner of Mercedes – watched the moment of history unfold alongside team principal Toto Wolff, and Britain’s richest man provided the lucky charm.

Verstappen headed into Q3 as the favourite to secure top spot before Hamilton powered his way around the 16 corners and 2.9 miles of Circuit de Catalunya asphalt to steal the glory with his first run in Q3.

“Lewis is just operating on this extreme, never-before seen level,” said Wolff. “The car wasn’t perfect and he just edged the other ones out.

“He is clearly the outstanding driver and growing as a personality on and off the track.

“One hundred poles is incredible. If you put all his pole laps together in a video, it would last two hours so that just shows what he has achieved.”

Hamilton, 36, is unbeaten on Spanish soil since he collided with rival Nico Rosberg at the fourth turn of the opening lap in 2016.

On that dark day for Hamilton, Verstappen went on to win in his maiden appearance for Red Bull, and ahead of his 100th start for the Milton Keynes team, the Dutchman’s best chance at toppling his rival could arrive on the 600-metre stampede to the opening bend.

“It is a long run to Turn 1 and a good start is key,” Verstappen, who trails Hamilton by eight points, said. “The pace is there, so I hope we can have a good race.

“We know they are hard to beat around here but to be that close, I can be happy with that.”