"It wasn't the smoothest qualifying session - I nearly went out in Q1," said Sebastian Vettel. But it had all come out more than okay in the end: "It's good to get the pole ... It feels great and I completely owe this one to the team."

It's certainly silenced the critics who have been all over Vettel after a disappointing start to his 2012 F1 season. Not only were there no pole positions in the first three Grand Prix races of the year - which last year had been a clean-sweep for Vettel - but he'd been out-qualified all three times by his team mate Mark Webber.

"It wasn't an easy start to the season for us and there was a lot of expectation," Vettel agreed. "But I think more than anything it was about what we expected from ourselves and we didn't match it."

Despite the fact that there's limits to what the team can do while on a "fly away" leg of the season, Vettel said that the sudden improvement on the Red Bull at Bahrain was down to the team engineers and mechanics keeping at it, even so far away from their home base.

"I completely owe this one to the team," he said. "The boys haven't had much sleep the last few races ... We've been working extremely hard on the car, trimming here and there and finding the right way to go forward."

Team boss Christian Horner described Vettel's pole position and Mark Webber's third place as "pretty unexpected."

He added, "It's testimony to all the hard work that's going on here trackside and back in the factory to deliver that kind of performance during what was a really exciting and tight qualifying session."

On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Webber agreed that the team had made some definite steps forward in the week since the frustrating Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, confessing that he was "pretty surprised to be as competitive as we are" at Bahrain so soon after China's woes.

"The car has been working better here," he said. "The team has worked very hard and been very focused," he said.

Renault's Cyril Dumont was quick to point out another significant advantage of the one-three grid positions for Vettel and Webber.

"To start first and third is the best position for tomorrow on the clean side of the track," he said, meaning that the McLaren duo will have to start from the dusty off-line side of the grid when the green lights go out for the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.

And the team are hoping that now they've delivered in qualifying, it will allow their race pace to come to the fore on Sunday rather than being spent overcoming the lack of Saturday performance.

"We haven't been too strong on Saturdays until now, but we have on Sunday," said Webber, adding that he "feels confident" for the race. "Let's see how it unfolds tomorrow.

"We are pretty aggressive and we should be better off in the race," agreed Vettel. "The race here is long and a lot of things can happen."

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