Hamilton emerged from final practice "lost" with regard to the set up of his Mercedes after complaining over the team radio he was unable to drive the car as it had become "so unstable at the rear".
Although Hamilton finished first practice yesterday comfortably out in front, in a bid to find further improvements the team headed in completely the wrong direction in the two sessions that followed.
It meant that come today's qualifying at the Nurburgring, Mercedes sent Hamilton out on the back of further changes, but with no idea as to how he would fare.
As it turned out, they proved a revelation as Hamilton clinched back-to-back poles following his romp to top spot last Saturday ahead of the British Grand Prix.
It was also the 29th pole of his career, drawing him level in the all-time standings with four-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
"In practice we went from one end of the spectrum to the other, from acute understeer to huge oversteer," said Hamilton.
"Second and third practice were just disasters. We were miles off, we were lost, and usually, if you don't have it right by the end of P3, you're stuffed.
"I really, really thought I was going to struggle to get into the top 10, but we made some big, big changes all round.
"Come qualifying I went into it with fingers crossed, but from the first lap the car felt great, I thought I could really do something."
Hamilton really did do something, denying home hero Sebastian Vettel who had to content himself with second in his Red Bull ahead of team-mate Mark Webber.
The only problem for Hamilton is that in finding a way forward with his car, whilst it worked for hot laps in qualifying, there are no guarantees it will provide him with the long-run pace he requires to win the race.
"It's going to be very hard," added Hamilton, when asked whether he would be able to keep Vettel at bay.
"The Red Bulls have obviously made a step forward this weekend. A lot of teams have made a step forward.
"Of course, it would help if we could get into turn one in the lead and to then try and hold them behind, but we still have degradation issues (with the tyres). It's not something we've completely cured.
"I don't think it's impossible, but then I've also the new set up, so I don't know how it's going to behave on the long run.
"It means I'll be going into the race with my fingers crossed again and just hoping it works well."
It proved to be a day of mixed emotions for Mercedes as a mistake on the pitwall means team-mate Nico Rosberg will start 11th.
Mercedes believed Rosberg's time in Q2 was enough for him to make it into the top-10, but as the German sat in his car in the garage, he tumbled down the order and ultimately out of Q3.
A gutted Rosberg said: "It's tough. It's one of those days in sport which are really horrible. It has been very, very difficult to digest that one.
"In a way it's where my experience helps, knowing I'm maturing, so it takes less time to recover from such tough days in the office.
"I'm getting there, slowly but surely. Tomorrow I'll be ready to attack again, but today was definitely hard."
The race should lack the kind of unwanted drama witnessed in last Sunday's British Grand Prix where a number of blowouts overshadowed Rosberg's second win in three races.
So far there have been no incidents with Pirelli's revised spec of rear tyres that now include a belt made of Kevlar more resistant to punctures, as opposed to the steel previously used.
Although the Grand Prix Drivers' Association threatened a boycott of this event should there be a repeat of the incidents witnessed at Silverstone, director Vettel has no doubts the only talk afterwards will be about the race.
"We were very close at Silverstone to a red flag, but it (what happened) was new to everybody, including the race director (Charlie Whiting)," said Vettel.
"We obviously learned lessons and we should be well prepared for tomorrow, but I don't expect any difficulties."
Vettel again has his main title rivals behind him, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen starting fourth and Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari eighth.
Jenson Button lines up ninth in his McLaren, with Force India's Paul Di Resta 12th and Marussia's Max Chilton 22nd and last.