Paul di Resta equalled his career best qualifying with fifth ahead of the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix, but the numbers do not do justice to how agonisingly close he was to a maiden pole position at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

A gamble on intermediates at the beginning of Q3 when everyone else went out on dry tyres appeared to have paid dividends as he held a what looked for most of the session to be unassailable position atop the timing charts until just moments remaining.

"Fifth place on the grid is a great result," he insisted afterwards. "At the start of Q3 I knew that I wanted to go straight out on the intermediates. It was a brave decision and the team let me go ahead with it, while the others chose dry tyres. I knew it was our best chance to get up towards the front of the grid and it paid off.

Unfortunately for the Scot, the rain stopped in time for the track to start improving before the end of the session, and that meant his rivals were able to get to work in the final seconds and dramatically knock him back down the running order in a thrilling finale.

"It's a shame that the rain stopped a bit too early because there were only a few cars that were quicker than us in the wet and they just got ahead at the end of the session," he said.

If he had succeeded in holding on to pole position to the end of Q3, di Resta would have been in good company: it was here in 2009 that Force India won pole with Giancarlo Fisichella who had then gone on to claim second place in the Grand Prix the following day - the closest the team has come to winning a race in its five and a half year existence.

Despite coming heartbreakingly close to his first career F1 pole, the 27-year-old di Resta was able to look ahead to the 11th round of the F1 world championship season with a great deal of optimism after a memorable day's work. "The main thing is we are in a strong position for tomorrow and we will come back tomorrow ready to fight."

Di Resta's team mate Adrian Sutil also posted a solid result with 12th, however the German driver was left feeling underwhelmed with the grid position after poor timing of his final lap in Q2 arguably cost him a shot at matching his team mate's more impressive effort.

"I'm feeling disappointed with how things ended up today because I think we had the potential to get a better result" said Sutil. "In Q2 I was on my final flying lap a bit too early and the track was getting quicker all the time, so we should have waited a bit longer and I think that would have made the difference to make the top ten."

Team principal Dr Vijay Mallya said that he was relying on both drivers to make use of whatever opportunities the weather presented on Sunday to help them continue to defend their fifth place in the constructors championship from powerhouse team McLaren.

"The big question mark for tomorrow is the weather," he admitted. "We've looked more competitive in the dry, but whatever the conditions we will push hard to come away with a strong result."

By Philip Barclay

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