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.
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.