Lewis Hamilton is on pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix after delivering yet another chapter in his book of wet-weather masterclasses.
As the rain swept in over the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, Hamilton took advantage of the tricky conditions to finish comfortably clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon will line up in a shock third place for Force India ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez.
But as the rain arrived in the seconds before the top-10 shootout, it was Hamilton who took the spoils to finish a mighty seven tenths clear of Vettel.
“That was one of the toughest qualifying sessions that I can remember,” Hamilton said after securing the 78th pole of his career.
“I don’t know if Ferrari definitely had the pole in the dry. I was hopeful I could make it but I knew it would be close.
“Then, the rain came, and I can’t express how difficult it was. It was so hard. I went off the track twice, but I am so glad I managed to keep it together on that last lap.”
Vettel added: “We didn’t time it great, but in these conditions anything can happen, so you may as well take second. We had the pace for pole, but the lap to Lewis was quite big so he deserved it.”
The result will come as a blow to Vettel, with Hamilton’s surge to the top in qualifying the first time the world champion has been fastest all weekend.
Hamilton ran wide on his first attempt at pole, but, as has so often been the case in his career, did not put a foot wrong when the pressure was on.
Like Hamilton, Force India, the British-based team taken out of administration over the summer, also made the most of the inclement conditions to line up in third and fourth.
Romain Grosjean was fifth for Haas ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finished a disappointing seventh and eighth for Red Bull.
Earlier in the dry, McLaren’s sorry season took another miserable twist with the British team’s worst qualifying session of the year.
Fernando Alonso finished only 17th, while his under-fire team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne propped up the order at his home race.
Alonso, 37, announced over the summer break that he will call time on his 17-season career at the end of the year, but Vandoorne’s future is likely to be taken out of his own hands.
The Belgian driver, in his second season with the Woking team, had already posted the slowest time in all three practice sessions before his qualifying nightmare.
British teenager Lando Norris deputised for Alonso in opening practice on Friday here, and the feeling is that he could be promoted in Vandoorne’s place next year.
Norris, 18, would join Carlos Sainz, who is moving from Renault to McLaren, but the Spaniard was also slow on Saturday, falling at the first hurdle of qualifying. He is set to line up in 16th.
Daniel Ricciardo surprised Red Bull and many in the F1 paddock with his unexpected decision to switch to Renault next year.
Ricciardo said he wanted a change in scenery and routine after being associated with Red Bull for a decade.
“It was more just the routine, going to the same factory year after year. I felt it made my enjoyment for the sport a bit numb at times,” Ricciardo said.
However, he admitted severing ties with the company over the phone was not the right thing to do.
“I would have liked to have done it in person and face to face. A bit more like an adult man about it,” Ricciardo said.
Watch the video below.
Carlos Sainz believes Formula One is too predictable at the moment and requires a change to make it more interesting.
The driver, who will replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren, offered his opinion on how to add more unpredictability to F1 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.
“I think it should be down more to the driver and what the driver can make as a difference,” Sainz said.
See what else Sainz had to say in the video below.