Lewis Hamilton achieved his fourth successive pole position in a dramatic qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
A rain shower at the beginning of Q3 gave the perfect opportunity for Paul di Resta, which resulted in provisional pole for Force India.
But as the circuit dried up, the Mercedes and Red Bulls blasted through to demote him down to fifth place.
Di Resta was the only driver to start Q3 on intermediates, and while the other nine slip and slide helplessly, before pitting again to abandon their slicks, the Force India flew to the top of the time sheets.
It seemed that no one would have a chance, although Nico Rosberg hinted at a challenge when he got within half a second of the Force India in much worse weather.
While di Resta pitted with pole apparently in the pocket, the rain eased completely, and those able to squeeze in a lap in the final moments of Q3 were back in pole contention.
It was Rosberg who first deposed the Force India, but he was quickly beaten by Mark Webber, then Hamilton.
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel came through 0.2 seconds slower than Hamilton to claim P2, followed by his Red Bull team-mate Webber, Rosberg and di Resta.
As for Jenson Button, last year’s race winner put in an encouraging sixth for McLaren.
Lotus and Ferrari had to settle for rows four and five, with title contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso back in eighth and ninth positions.
The biggest upset of the wet-but-drying first part of qualifying was Marussia duo Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton plus Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde all making it through to Q2.
The trio were the only drivers to try slicks at the end of Q1 and all jumped up the order, all the way to third in Van der Garde’s case!
As they progressed, the Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez were knocked out due a more conservative tactics as they failed to reach Q2.
With Q2 dry, Van der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton lined up in P14 to P16 respectively.
That still means Caterham will share row seven with a McLaren, as Sergio Perez was the highest-profile driver to fall in Q2.
He starts behind the all-German row six pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil.
So an exciting qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, with Hamilton scoring his 31st career pole position in Formula 1. Can the Mercedes driver win? It’s going to be a fascinating race.
Qualifying positions, Spa-Francorchamps:
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2m01.012s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2m01.200s
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2m01.325s
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2m02.251s
5. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 2m02.332s
6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2m03.075s
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2m03.081s
8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 2m03.390s
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2m03.482s
10. Felipe Massa Ferrari 2m04.059s
11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m49.088s
12. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m49.103s
13. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.304s
14. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m52.036s
15. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m52.563s
16. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m52.762s
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 2m03.072s
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2m03.300s
19. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2m03.317s
20. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 2m03.432s
21. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2m04.324s
22. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 2m07.384s
107 per cent time: 2m08.603s