Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham appeared to take a big step forwards in Valencia, out-qualifying both Toro Rosso's, with team-mate Vitaly Petrov not too far behind.
Kovalainen profited from a problem on Mark Webber's Red Bull
to snatch 17th place away from Toro Rosso's Jean Eric Vergne on his last lap in Q1, moments after Petrov had come within a couple of tenths of achieving it himself.
The Finn then went on to outpace Daniel Ricciardo in Q2, and will line up in 16th place on the grid.
“Today's performance was the result of a great effort by the whole team. This morning we weren't sure if we could do it or not but both runs in Q1 were really good. As the temperatures went up and the track kept evolving my car just felt better and better and I really got the most out of it on that final lap on the softs,” Kovalainen said.
“In Q2 we opted to wait until the end of the session and see if we could improve on the Q1 time and while that wasn't quite possible we achieved the target of beating both Toro Rosso
cars and that obviously is a great feeling.”
Not wanting to get ahead of himself, Kovalainen realises however, that the most important part of the job comes tomorrow and that there is plenty of work still to be done.
“I think tomorrow could now be really interesting for us - it looks like we have the chance to race them [Toro Rosso] and that's a significant step forward for our team. The upgrades we've brought give us the chance to make good on our goal of joining the midfield, so now we need to translate today's result into more good news tomorrow and keep moving forwards,” he added.
Kovalainen has now out-qualified Petrov seven times out of eight this season, but the Russian also demonstrated that Caterham are edging closer to the midfield battle and he was just a couple of tenths slower than Kovalainen in Q1 and will line up 20th tomorrow.
“This has been a good day for the team with the upgrades we've brought here helping us take another step forwards. For me I had a good first run on the medium tyres and then was going well on the softs but made a small mistake which cost me a couple of tenths and around this track you only need to lose a small amount of time to drop a few places back,” he continued.
“We obviously won't know until tomorrow how our nearest competitors will be able to look after their tyres, so we'll just make sure we put in as good a performance as we can, get the car home and see where we end up.”by Philip Barclay