Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi gave his team a big boost during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya today, when he made it into the top-ten shoot-out and put his C29 in tenth place on the grid.
Sauber have really struggled thus far in F1 2010 and while Kobayashi has got into Q3 once already, that was in Malaysia last month, when rain turned proceedings into a bit of a lottery and skewed the result.
This time though he genuinely had good pace and he easily progressed from Q2 on a 1 minute 21.275 seconds - something that put him ahead of the Ferrari of Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes.
Although he was unable to hold onto P8 in the final session, he was still very pleased: "I already knew from the morning session that my pace here was good enough for Q3. The team did a really good job – not only in qualifying, but also over the last three weeks," Kobayashi said.
"We have changed the direction for the car's development and as a reward we made it for the second time this season to Q3. The performance of the car is a lot better. We have aero updates and also an engine upgrade for reliability. I won't set myself targets for tomorrow. I just hope to finish the race and everything else, I believe, will be okay then."
Team-mate Pedro de la Rosa also believes the squad has made good progress. Indeed while he was disappointed to only qualify 12th for his home grand prix, he was still encouraged by the improved form of the C29.
"I'm not happy. In Q2 I was sixth and it obviously was possible to get into Q3. I don't really understand what went wrong. I had a bit of understeer here and there and out of turn two I was sliding. However, the positive thing is we have made a big step forward since China, and we are a lot more competitive," stated the ex-McLaren tester.
Team boss, Peter Sauber, and technical director, James Key meanwhile were similarly upbeat: "That was an excellent qualifying result for our team, along with a genuine pace from both drivers, which was very encouraging," Key summed-up. "We weren't sure how far we could push forward in qualifying, but I think after Q1 we realised we had a good chance of doing well, and I think in Q2 that proved to be the case.
"Pedro was just a few tenths of a second shy of Q3, but Kamui put an excellent single lap together to get through. We didn't have any new tyres for Q3, but we decided nevertheless to give it a go. A great performance from both drivers, and a well deserved result for the team. The updates worked, which was very much a team effort, and we can be proud of the step we made. Now we have to keep it going."
Sauber added: "If you want to move forward on the grid, you have to take two steps, because the competition is not standing still. And that's exactly what we achieved. A great compliment and thank you to the whole team. We can be happy with what we achieved today."