HRT team principal Luis P?rez-Sala was a relieved man after the chequered flag came out at the end of Q1 at Sepang. Of course, both his drivers had failed to progress into Q2 and had been eliminated from qualifying, but that was to be expected. The important thing was that both cars would be on the grid on Sunday.

"I'm satisfied with how today went," he said. "We've accomplished our first target which was to improve the car and qualify for the race."

That wasn't the case seven days ago at Melbourne, when neither car made it inside the 107% requirement and the stewards refused to grant them an exemption, meaning the whole team packed up early.

This week it could easily have happened again, with Mark Webber's last-gasp flying lap in Q1 suddenly dropping the 107% cut-off to 1:43.974s, just three tenths away from Narain Karthikeyan's best effort of 1:43.655s. But no one could reduce the time further, and P?rez-Sala was able to breath again knowing that both Karthikeyan would be able to line up on the grid for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

"In Australia, after all the work we put in, it was tough to fall just short," he admitted. "But we've continued to give it our all and, in a few days, we've taken another important step forwards.

"The important thing is to be closer to the rest in terms of times and that the team is gelling more and more," he continued. "That way we will identify our weak points and fix them quicker, as we have done here."

The team worked until late last night to fix the issues with grip and heating of the cars, and both drivers were happier when they took to the track on Saturday.

"From the first lap in the morning I felt that the car had improved notably and we improved our times significantly," said Pedro de la Rosa. "We've lowered our time by more than a second from yesterday to today and every time we modify something new we're going quicker."

De la Rosa was particularly proud of the "huge stride" that the team had taken in the last few days, managing to get DRS ready after keenly feeling its absence in Melbourne, as well as significantly improving the car's power steering.

"We had to change our strategy a little bit today because of some heating issues," noted Karthikeyan. "The conditions changed a lot from the morning and the track was much more slippery. But we qualified for the race!"

But having finally jumped over the 107% hurdle at the second attempt, HRT now finds itself in genuinely unexplored territory.

"We have to see how tomorrow goes in long distance because it will be the first time we string so many laps together, which won't be easy," pointed out de la Rosa.

"It would be good for us if it rained because that keeps the car a bit cooler but, no matter what, we'll have to give it our best and try to put in a good performance," added Karthikeyan.