While most of the attention in qualifying was on the battle between the Red Bulls and McLarens for pole position, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo was keeping his head down and working his way up to his best-ever Grand Prix qualifying position in sixth place in Bahrain.

"It feels very good and I am very happy with that result," said the Australian. "I was happy with my driving and I got better and better in each of the sessions. It's not always you have a day like this, so I can enjoy the moment - bearing in mind that it's tomorrow that counts."

The team's performance had slipped last week in China, as they struggled to integrate some updates that arrived from the Toro Rosso factory in Faenza that simply didn't want to work. But they stuck with the upgrades, and this week reaped the rewards.

"We had a below average week in China with some updates we brought," he said. "We persisted with them and we made them work significantly better here, which is down to the hard work of the whole team."

"The most positive aspect of today is that we seem to have understood the reasons why we were quite slow last week in China," said Toro Rosso's chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "We came here with a few possible solutions and it seems to have delivered reasonable results."

By contrast, his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne was mystified at why he had lost out on getting through to Q2, forcing him to start from 18th place.

"I do not understand why I was so slow this afternoon," he said. "Especially as the car was going well this morning and as can be seen from Daniel's impressive performance - well done to him!

"I am keen to get back to the engineers to look at the data and find out why I could not deliver the performance I was hoping for," he added. "The track was three degrees warmer this afternoon than in the morning, but I don't think it was down to that."

"It did not go our way with Jean-Eric," admitted Mekies. "But hopefully we can work together to deliver something better tomorrow, as he has already produced some good races from low down the grid."

Vergne agreed: "I've started from the lower half of the grid before and then managed to have a good race, so given that I think the car has the potential, that is what I plan to do tomorrow."

Meanwhile Ricciardo has an altogether different challenge ahead, starting from the third row of the grid right in among the cars of Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes and Sauber.

"Daniel will have a very tough fight up there!" laughed Mekies.

"Starting from sixth, I have to focus on scoring as many points as possible, as this is the best chance we have had so far," added Ricciardo. "I hope I am still smiling tomorrow evening ... It helps to go into a race feeling confident!"