A topsy-turvy session saw contrasting fortunes at Sauber in qualifying for the 11th round of the 2013 world championship season, with Nico Hulkenberg coming through unscathed in 11th whilst his team mate Esteban Gutierrez will have to line up 21st, one place from the back and with wounded pride ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg has been renowned for some world class displays in changeable weather throughout his career, most notably with pole for Williams at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2010. Spa 2013 was a more low-key but still quietly impressive affair, leaving the German feeling optimistic ahead of Sunday's race.
“It was a tricky day again qualifying in weather conditions like these. This morning I was struggling a bit on the medium tyre [and] again this afternoon it wasn't the easiest, but I guess that's the same for everyone with the weather," he said.
“It was a wet Q1, which is always exciting, but I think we did a solid job there. We were only missing about three hundredths to get into Q3. P11 seems to stick to me. But it's a good starting point for tomorrow. I hope we have a good race pace, so that we can score some points”
Gutierrez, meanwhile, was left to rue a strategic error near the end of the first qualifying session that robbed him of the chance to demonstrate the progress he felt that he and the team had made with his set-up.
"Everything was looking good until the last part of Q1," he explained. "We changed to a new set of intermediates too early, and that was the wrong choice. The track was drying and the tyres were gone after one lap, which was the main issue.
“There is not much we could have done at that moment, when the decision was already made, but I tried to do the best with what I had. In these weather conditions, it all comes down to the right tyre selection," he conceded.
Despite that, Gutierrez was optimistic about what he could achieve in the race, even starting from so far back.
“I'm much happier with the car today; we were able to solve the issues we had in FP2 [on Friday]," he said. "[The race] will be a gamble too as the forecast is changeable. It will come down to the strategy, so we have to be very flexible, open to everything and very efficient.
"Whether it's a dry or a wet race, we need to get it right."
By Philip Barclay