Championship leader Nico Rosberg achieved his fourth consecutive Formula 1 pole position in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had to settle with second position after suffering braking problmes in Q3. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was the best of ‘division two’ in third, but was over two seconds adrift of the Silver Arrows.
Rain meant that the majority of qualifying was run using intermediate tyres and Rosberg’s first flying lap at the start of Q3, a time of two minute, 05.591 seconds, proved to be good enough for pole.
Although Rosberg did switch to a fresh set of intermediates and made a small improvement, he had already done enough to be secure the top spot. Nico ended up just over two tenths clear of his championship rival and Mercedes team-mate.
Hamilton set a slow time on his first flying lap, which was compromised by sliding wide at the La Source hairpin, leading him to ease off, but Lewis improved on his second attempt.
He then pitted for fresh intermediates and got down to a two minute, 05.819 seconds on his final Q3 lap, but this was only for second position.
Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel was third quickest, over two seconds slower than Rosberg, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in fourth.
The champion duo had held third and fourth after the first runs, but improvements later on served only to defend their positions with the Mercedes drivers out of reach.
Hungarian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo, who had an off-track moment on his final attempt, was fifth fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the Williams.
Kevin Magnussen outqualified McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, the duo ending up seventh and tenth.
In between the McLarens were Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, with The Iceman losing out big time following his first run which meant he was bumped down from fifth to eighth place.
The Scuderia Toro Rosso pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne were the fastest of those eliminated in Q2.
Kvyat put in a lap that provisionally put him eighth in the closing stages of the session, but he was shuffled down the order by improvements by Magnussen, Button and Vettel, all of which were in the drop zone at times late on.
Sergio Perez was P13 ahead of Sauber driver Adrian Sutil, with Romain Grosjean P15.
Although Jules Bianchi was slowest in the middle part of qualifying, the Marussia driver was one of the stars in the wet qualifying session at Spa, reaching Q2 for the second consecutive year.
Pastor Maldonado appeared to have made it through to Q2 by improving his time on his final flying lap in a Q1 session that started off wet but improved throughout.
But the Lotus driver was bumped back down to P17 when Sutil also improved in the dying moments, with all the runners by then using intermediate rubber.
This also led to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg being eliminated as he slipped down to P18 ahead of Marussia’s Max Chilton having been ahead of both Maldonado and Sutil as they started their final laps.
Hulkenberg admitted post-qualifying that he made a mistake at the end of his final lap, which cost him a couple of tenths. In addition, the ‘Hulk’ complained of a lack of braking feel.
Esteban Gutierrez did not have the opportunity to do a proper qualifying run as his Sauber stopped on his fifth lap while he was still on wet tyres.
This meant that the Mexican did not get to run in the best of the conditions, ending up ahead of the Caterhams.
Remarkably, Andre Lotterer outpaced his Caterham team-mate Marcus Ericsson to avoid starting his debut Grand Prix last, with the gap between the two almost one second.
Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2m05.591s
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2m05.819s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2m07.717s
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2m07.786s
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 2m07.911s
6. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 2m08.049s
7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2m08.679s
8. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2m08.780s
9. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2m09.178s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2m09.776s
11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 2m09.377s
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 2m09.805s
13. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2m10.084s
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2m10.238s
15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2m11.087s
16. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2m12.470s
17. Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2m11.261s
18. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 2m11.267s
19. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2m12.566s
20. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2m13.414s
21. Andre Lotterer Caterham-Renault 2m13.469s
22. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2m14.438s
107 per cent time: 2m16.029s