Giancarlo Fisichella has admitted that securing a maiden pole position for the Force India F1 team was beyond his wildest dreams heading to the Belgian Grand Prix, despite acknowledging that Spa-Francorchamps is a circuit where he always expects to go well.
A force, albeit unexpected, throughout qualifying, the Italian veteran topped the first phase of qualifying and was only toppled from P1 late in Q2, before bouncing back to turn the tables on countryman Jarno Trulli and claim an historic first pole that marked by far the best qualifying result for the Indian team. A nail-biting third phase ended with Fisichella posting a 1min 46.308secs lap just seconds from the end of the hour, leaving little time for Trulli - or anyone else to respond, as Ferrari's Luca Badoer crashed out and forced a yellow flag zone at Les Combes.
The 36-year old, who has been tipped as a contender for the soon-to-be-vacant second Ferrari for the Italian Grand Prix, will start from pole for the fourth time in his lengthy career, although for the first time since heading qualifying for the 2006 Malaysia GP.
"This is one of my favourite circuits," Fisichella admitted, "I did well here in the past, and I was sure we would be competitive again this year, but I didn't expect to be on pole!
"It feels just great, like a dream. I am so happy for myself, for the team, for the mechanics, the engineers, all of whom have done a fantastic job. They made a great step forward for Valencia for the last race, especially considering our budget and our resources. Now I am not only looking for points, but for more... We've got this far we need to finish the job!"
Fisichella, however, had to overcome a minor setback during morning practice, which had limited him to eighth place on the timesheets as Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil claimed third fastest time.
"We had a small accident when I hit a rabbit, but my engineer said it would be lucky - and it was!" Fisichella revealed, "What a result."
"It was simply an incredible result, and full credit to Giancarlo on a series of fantastic laps," chief race engineer Dominic Harlow concurred, "We started today a little unsure of our performance, and knew we had to work on the understeer that was in the car yesterday, but the engineers tried a few things in FP3 and found the right direction. From there, both drivers were much happier. Giancarlo concentrated on the soft tyre in Q2 and I think the track improvement came in that direction."
Sutil could have joined his team-mate in Q3, having looked strong throughout the day, but narrowly missed out on a slot for the second time this year, after trailing Nico Rosberg by just a tenth of a second.
"This is an unbelievable day for the team, and congratulations to Giancarlo - it was an amazing result for him and such a good boost for the team," the magnanimous German commented, "We've worked hard, so the guys really deserve it.
"For me, it was quite a good session, but I'm still a little bit disappointed as I couldn't use the soft tyre set effectively. The hard set was much better on my car - we don't know why, but we will look into it as, normally, we should have been Q3 - as Giancarlo showed. However, from eleventh, I still think points are possible. We are quite good on the long run pace, the car feels good and it was from this point of view I am quite happy."