Christian Vietoris put Racing Engineering on pole position with a stunning lap of 2:18.345s in the final minutes of the wet Friday afternoon qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, a staggering 1.4s ahead of Luca Filippi in second place.

However the time was set while there were yellow flags out for Charles Pic, who had rolled to a stop at Blanchimont in sector 3, which put Vietoris' pole at doubt until he was able to prove to the race stewards that he had indeed significantly slowed through the specific area of the caution.

Jules Bianchi set one of the earliest fast times of the session with a 2:22:816s on a wet, waterlogged track still suffering from light rain as the session began, while Filippi and Vietoris adopted an "off-sync" strategy to give themselves a clearer track and improved visibility from water spray and immediate benefitted by Vietoris going top with 2:21.884s.

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Championship leader Romain Grosjean then went top with a time of 2:21.715s and looked set to continue his strong run, but that proved to be a high watermark for the Dams driver and he was strangely unable to find an opportunity to improve on that time again during the remainder of the 30-minute qualifying period.

Vietoris, Filippi and Marcus Ericsson all stayed out for longer first half stints and duly slammed in quicker times to take hold of the top three with Vietoris on a 2:20.724s, 0.811s ahead of Filippi. As everyone headed for pit lane at the midpoint of the session, Sam Bird exited qualifying with a one-way trip to the barrier after spinning at turn 6, Les Combes.

As the cars returned to the track for their final runs on a vaguely-drying track, first Adam Carroll and then Michael Herck popped into second place, but no one was able to displace Vietoris on the top spot until Charles Pic pulled off a time of 2:20.056s, 0.668s faster with just five minutes remaining on the clock.

Pic was unable to challenge further when his Barwa Addax ground to a half moments later, and instead it was Filippi who picked up the fight and was the first man under 140s with a time of 2:19.779s.

In the final seconds it was Christian Vietoris, Luca Filippo and Jules Bianchi laying down the purple sectors, but a slow-speed spin for Bianchi ruined the Lotus ART driver's efforts and left the field clear for Vietoris to thump in his 2:18.345s. However, this was after Pic had parked up through turn 17 in the final sector leaving the track under local yellows, meaning that Vietoris' pole lap was put under review by the stewards.

The data showed to the stewards' satisfaction that Vietoris had indeed lifted through the specific area of the caution if not through the sector as a whole, and Vietoris put down the overall fast lap to the generally improving track conditions by that stage of the afternoon.

"I backed off quite a lot which you can see on the data. I cannot do more than that," he said at the post-qualifying press conference. "The track clearly improved which you can see on the times. I had some extra pace but I backed off in the third sector which you have to do when there is yellow flags. I'm still the quickest today."

Filippi, who had essentially abandoned his lap after hitting the yellow flags, was left regretting the missed opportunity to take pole simply because he had followed the letter of the rules.

"It's a bit of a shame that we could not get pole position," he said afterwards. "We had a good chance to take it again, but there was a yellow flag in my last lap and I had to lift. I don't know if I would have been able to take pole, but for sure I was improving and I decided to stay safe and slow down."

Grosjean finished the session bumped down to eighth position, which while far from idea is at least ahead of his championship points rival Giedo van der Garde who could only manage 11th place and who must finish ahead of Grosjean tomorrow to keep the title fight alive. He was one ahead of Ocean Technology Racing new boy Brendon Hartley who notched up a very creditable 12th place in his return to the GP2 grid for the first time this season, in particularly challenging conditions.

Full qualifying times and positions available.