Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he will need to blend aggression with caution if he is to challenge Mark Webber for the lead of the Belgian Grand Prix, admitting that it was tough to read the changing conditions at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Briton had been fastest in the second phase of qualifying, but had to give best to Webber in the final shoot-out after a minor mistake at La Source as the conditions continued to fluctuate. However, he was still one of the few to improve on his second run, vaulting from fourth to second in the process, to restore McLaren to the front row after a difficult couple of races.
World championship ambitions aside, Hamilton admits that he would love to join the pantheon of winners at the circuit that every driver rates among the best on the planet, but accepts that he cannot go all out to dispose of Webber on the opening lap, especially if the weather gods continue to throw curve balls.
"So many of the greats have won here," he noted, "It's one of those legendary circuits and, growing up, this is the first grand prix I ever went to, in 1996, so of course I would be very honoured to be on that list.
"The good thing is that the car feels pretty good here, so we are in a good position to get some good points tomorrow. It is a completely different day, and we don't know if it is going to rain or be dry, so [you have to be] aggressive but you have to be cautious at the same time.
"It's very difficult for me out there to picture and understand and see all the dark patches and light patches and the sky - it's difficult to know if it's just a dark patch of tarmac or whether it's actually damp and whether it's going to affect you. You don't know until you hit it, [so] we're all on the knife edge out there."
The conditions, Hamilton admitted, played a part in Webber stealing pole away in the final shoot-out, with rain returning in the final moments of the session.
"Mark did a fantastic job, as it was such a tricky qualifying session, where the weather conditions were changing drastically," he noted, "I got out for my first lap, and was the first one out, so it wasn't a particularly great lap. There was one corner, I think turn 14, which was drying up, but I was the first one to get there and didn't really know how much I could push, so I lost a little bit of time.
"The second run was a good lap except for turn one, which was a little bit damp. We lost three-and-a-half tenths or so there [by going wide], so I lost a bit of time there, but the rest of the track was dry, so I was able to utilise the tyres and really pull out the time. The potential was obviously there for us to be on the [pole], but we are on the front row. I'm quite happy with the car, we made some changes going into qualifying which is very rare for us, and fortunately they were the right ones. The positive thing is that we are up there and in for the fight, so it is good."