Fernando Alonso may have escaped the cut in first qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, but the Spaniard would have been the big story of Q2 had it not been for the misfortune of Britain's two Formula One contenders.
Both current F1 points leader Jenson Button and reigning world champion Jenson Button failed to lap the Belgian venue fast enough to make it through into the final phase of qualifying, the Brawn driver missing out on a top ten slot for the first time this season.
Both Britons hovered around the drop zone for much of the 15-minute session, with Button being dropped into the bottom five runners when Nick Heidfeld found enough pace to jump from 13th to third. Hamilton followed his countryman's downward spiral moments later, as Q1 pacesetter Giancarlo Fisichella moved up, then staged a brief escape attempt of his own, climbing to tenth but teetering on the brink until late starter Nico Rosberg finally found the lap he needed to secure a Q3 spot.
Hamilton could not even cling on to eleventh, being usurped by good friend Adrian Sutil, but still sandwiches Alonso, with Button 14th for Brawn's worst qualifying result of the season. Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen brought up the rear.
Fisichella again threatened to record the fastest time of the session, but was bumped off top spot by Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who had led for much of the 15 minutes before being toppled by his countryman. The Force India driver nevertheless made the cut, and will join Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel, Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello - 0.4secs faster than team-mate Button - Timo Glock, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen and Rosberg in the battle for pole.