SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Lewis Hamilton says the conditions he mastered for pole position on Saturday were worse than what he encountered on route to winning the German Grand Prix in July.
Hamilton bolstered his already strong claim to the title of F1's premier wet-wet weather talent with a scintillating lap late in Q3 on a drying track to beat title rival Sebastian Vettel to the session's quickest time. Ferrari had looked to be favourites for pole in the dry conditions.
Hamilton was caught out by the conditions initially, running wide during an earlier attempt in Q3, but he avoided a similar mistake on his final lap to move ahead of the Ferrari driver by 0.7s.
"That was one of the toughest qualifying sessions I can remember," Hamilton said "It seems to get harder and harder all year long. I don't know if they definitely had it, we were very, very close, you saw it in, I think, Q2, we were split by half a tenth, so I was hopeful I could make that slight difference but I knew it was going to be very close, they were very quick on the straights.
"But then the rain came and none of us have been driving this weekend in the rain, so I can't even express to you how difficult it was. You saw that I went off in Turn 1. You're tip-toeing, you don't know where the limit is, you don't know... the track looks dry in some places but it's actually wet.
"That was definitely some of the toughest... even though at the last race it was very wet, but that was different circumstances, where you have more grip on those extreme tyres. With these ones it was so hard. I went off twice but I'm so glad I managed to keep it together for that last lap."
Hamilton snatched an unlikely victory from Vettel in July when a rain storm changed the entire complexion of the grand prix.. The four-time world champion has won a string of recent races in the wet.
When asked if he felt he was unbeaten in wet-weather situations, given his recent performances in those conditions, he revealed that he had actually wanted it to stay dry in order to measure Mercedes' pace relative to Ferrari in those conditions.
"Definitely not. I think I also tend to do the job in the dry every now and again as well too -- but no, not at all.
"I wish you could see how tough it is out there for us all, maybe you could see it by all of us falling off. It's really about balance of circumstances and compromises and maybe Seb, as he said, he'd got a battery problem, or something like that. I'd managed mine myself and made sure I had enough power. Also the team helped me in being aware of that. So, I don't really know what to say. Ultimately it's for you to decide, to create an opinion about it. I love driving in the wet. I didn't want it to rain. I was looking forward to it being really close in the dry."
"When it rains. I mean, it was horrible! It's not a case that I love it. It was absolutely terrifying for all of us because we were all tip-toeing around. It's fun also - but you just don't know when the front wheels are going to lock. When a front wheel locks, the car seems to speed up. I don't really understand when that happens but you lock up and then it doesn't stop after that. You're just praying that doesn't happen."