Not for the first time this season, qualifying defied expectations and, sadly, tips. The tip failed by any measure, which is unfortunate. However, I have had some good luck in recent races so can't complain now.
The first qualifying session was notable only for the misfortune of Rosberg. He suffered a mechanical issue in P3, which meant that, after qualifying 18th fastest, he also has a five place grid penalty to add insult to injury.
Shocks galore in Q2, when Vettel failed to get his car into the final qualifying session. Schumacher, in a rather slow Silver Arrow, was 13th and Massa came in 14th.
However, the biggest surprises of the day were saved for the end. Button absolutely slaughtered the field, putting in magnificently fast (and unexpected) laps in Q2 and then backed that up in Q3. He went for a different setup to Hamilton, who I think went for the high downforce that will be handy in the twisty second sector but may be inferior for the race, which may add to his advantage. Kobayashi put in a banzai lap to claim the best ever qualifying result (2nd) for a Japanese driver in F1, and Maldonado got a very impressive third.
Raikkonen, tipped by many to do well, came 4th, just ahead of Perez. Sauber are looking very tasty.
Alonso only got 6th, but actually I believe it's still a grid that plays to his advantage because the only title contender ahead of him is Raikkonen, and if they finish as they start Alonso's lead will increase.
Webber qualified 7th but will start five places lower down due to yet another gearbox-related penalty, and was followed by Hamilton, who as well as going for a different setup to his team mate used an older wing (which appears to be significantly slower). Grosjean got 9th and Di Resta 10th.
Qualifying was thrilling, if red, but it also sets up a race that promises to be just as unpredictable. As a spectator I'm delighted, but as a gambler it looks a bit daunting.
I've laid Red Bull for the Constructors' title at 1.65, on the basis that either Lotus or McLaren could take it off them. I think the latter two teams are well-placed whereas Red Bull seem to have lost relative pace.
I was tempted to back either Perez for a podium at 4.5 (Ladbrokes) or Sauber to top score as a team (8, Ladbrokes again). However, if Button wins, and he seems fairly likely to do so, that would make it very hard for Sauber to top score, because Hamilton would need only to make up a place or two to tie, and if he finished fifth then even a double podium from Sauber (without winning) wouldn't be enough.
Maldonado got a 3 place grid penalty for being a twonk (I believe the technical term is 'blocking' Hulkenberg), which will help out Raikkonen, Perez and Alonso. I expect the Force Indias to go backwards, and will be not entirely astonished if Maldonado hits another car. Or a kerb. Or some part of the Belgian scenery. Grosjean, starting 8th, could be good to watch, and it'll be fascinating to see if Sauber can deliver on their potential now that they've finally had a good qualifying session.
So, I decided to go for the short odds favourite, Button, for the win at 2.44 (I've made a note of Nigel's 2.48 green line tip as well), with a hedge set up at 1.2. If I felt like I had a better handle on where the teams are and how they'll stack up on race pace I might've gone for the Sauber bet(s), but qualifying reminded me that this season is very, very unpredictable.