For a long time in Q3 it looked like Force India's Paul di Resta would claim his first pole on Saturday.
However, Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps lived up to reputation as one of the most unpredictable circuits on the calendar by keeping fans guessing until the very last second.
And when the rain dried up in the final moments, so did the Scotsman's hopes of pole.
Di Resta's loss proved to be fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton's gain.
I just hope we can do that in the race tomorrow. I feel I have been driving well for some time now
"I am so surprised. When I started the lap, I looked at the screen and I was seventh or eighth and it was raining more and more," Hamilton said.
"I just kept pushing.
"I feel quite comfortable in changing conditions and I feel I am able to find my limits in those conditions.
"I just hope we can do that in the race tomorrow. I feel I have been driving well for some time now."
The ever-changing weather conditions kept all teams on their toes, and it was Mercedes who planned qualifying to perfection - with a bit of help from the rain gods.
The result meant Hamilton stretched his superb qualifying run to four consecutive poles for Mercedes, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber of Red Bull not far behind.
It was a thrilling end to qualifying with Hamilton's fastest lap coming just a second after the Red Bull pair had crossed the line.
Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg finished fourth ahead of Britain's Di Resta and Jenson Button.
It brought Hamilton his seventh front row start of the season on a memorable afternoon from start to finish.
In quintessentially capricious Spa conditions, with the track drying out following a pre-session downpour, the first part of qualifying saw the Caterham and Marussia teams create a surprise after making an early switch from 'wet' tyres to intermediates.
This resulted in a dramatic final few minutes to Q1 that saw Alonso fastest ahead of a rejuvenated Hamilton with, remarkably, Dutchman Guido van der Garde taking third for Caterham ahead of Rosberg.
The circuit continued to dry in Q2 and the drivers responded by switching to softer compound tyres as the top contenders, including Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel, left their running until the final five minutes.
As the lap times tumbled, this produced a frantic finish that saw Raikkonen quickest in 1:48.296 and Hamilton scraping through to the top ten shootout in 10th place.
The men who missed the cut were German Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber, German Adrian Sutil of Force India, Mexican Sergio Perez in the second McLaren, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde of Caterham - in a personal best qualifying slot of 14th - and the Marussia pairing, albeit in rarefied air mid-grid.
Just as Q3 began, rain fell again, a wave of raised umbrellas sweeping around distant 'Malmedy' and 'Stavelot' sections of the circuit. Adventurously, the whole field rushed out on slick tyres in pursuit of an early fast lap,
except for one.
Just as quickly, the field lapped and returned to the pits for intermediate tyres leaving only Di Resta - who had delayed his start - on track, with the best choice of tyres, to clock 2:02.332.
Ferrari were swift in sending out Massa as the rain fell and he clocked a lap that saw him 1.727 seconds slower than the Scot as the remainder of the field risked running hard in heavy rain in the final minutes before it eased for a furious finale as the chequered flag fell.
Starting grid for Belgium Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault
3. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault
4. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes
5. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes
6. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren
7. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault
9. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari
10. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari