F1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton says he is keeping his expectations modest coming into the Belgian Grand Prix as he readies himself for a fight-back through the field at Spa-Francorchamps.

With three pre-planned engine changes made this weekend - totalling 55 positions worth of grid penalties -, Hamilton was always destined to start the race from the back of the grid, a disadvantage compounded by main title rival Nico Rosberg claiming pole position.

However, with Mercedes being run relatively closely by Red Bull and Ferrari on pure pace as teams grapple with the higher-than-anticipated temperatures, Hamilton admits he has had to alter his targets and doesn't believe a podium will be possible.

RESULTS: Belgian Grand Prix - Qualifying results

"I'm hoping to get into the top ten," said Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by 19 points coming into the race. "That's all I can hope for is just to aim as high as possible and get up as high as I can. It feels unlikely it will be a podium, but it's not impossible, things could happen, safety cars and all these sorts of things.

"But with the tyres the way they are, which is a bit of a mess, it's going to be tough out there for everyone. But it's definitely going to be tough to come through and get on the podium and win."

Though Mercedes may opt to start Hamilton from the pit-lane, the defending champion says that is not his preferred option despite numerous incidents at La Source in the past.

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"I never like to start from the pit lane. It means you have to wait for them to come past the pit lane exit, and by the time I get round the corner they will be halfway down the hill and the last car will almost be going into Eau Rouge, and it means I then have to catch up.

"There is the possibility of me crashing in Turn 1 and you avoid that [with a pit lane start], but there is also the possibility that there's not and then I just give up eight or seven seconds or whatever it is. I can't afford to lose any time, so my plan is to start on the grid."

Hamilton also explained the reasoning behind taking the penalties for Spa rather than Monza, revealing Mercedes were unconvinced his existing would last the weekend.

"I couldn't take them at Monza because I might not be able to make it through the race on my other engine and I only had one engine that was alive really, so I could have entered the race tomorrow but I wouldn't have been able to push the engine and there was a risk that it wouldn't have made it. So it's on its last hours or last legs. It may have seen me through the race, but it might not have, and we didn't want to take that risk."

BACK TO FRONT: A history of F1 fight-backs!

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