Pedro de la Rosa was delighted with the outcome of qualifying for the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka, which will see him match his best starting position of the season with 20th place on the grid.
The HRT driver beat Marussia's Charles Pic and Caterham's Vitaly Petrov in Q1 as well as his own team mate Narain Karthikeyan, while a ten-place grid penalty for seven-time former world champion Michael Schumacher lifts de la Rosa up another spot for the start of Sunday's race.
"Today I went out to give it my all and I'm happy with how it went," he said. "The team did a fantastic job and the car's set-up improved notably.
"In qualifying I did two good laps," he described. "The second one was even better, almost perfect, and tomorrow we will start ahead of Caterham and Marussia which is already a success - more so at a circuit like this one.
"We've got to be more than happy with what we've done," he insisted. "Tomorrow in the race we will go for everything. The important thing is to have a good pace, look after the tyres and finish strong."
"Pedro's times were very competitive and he was in the 103.6%, which is the second best result in qualifying of the year," said HRT's technical director Toni Cuquerella. "This result adds to the data we analysed and confirms that the aero upgrades that we introduced at Singapore are an important step forward."
Cuquerella confirmed that a spin by Karthikeyan in the morning FP3 session had damaged the floor of the other car and forced the team to run the older component which had set him back.
De la Rosa finished just two tenths off Timo Glock's time and just under five hundredths of a second faster than Glock's Marussia team mate Charles Pic, who had an eventful day of it having received a 5,000 euro fine after Lewis Hamilton nearly hit him at the chicane in Free Practice 3 earlier on Saturday. Marussia was also handed a fine for failing to warn Pic about Hamilton's proximity.
Over at Caterham, Vitaly Petrov insisted that he wasn't unhappy with his qualifying effort, explaining that they'd started the day on the back foot.
"In FP3 we found that the car wasn't working as well as it had yesterday in FP2 when it had felt pretty good," he explained. "When we went through the data we found that the tyre temperatures weren't coming up as well as we'd have liked and we made a couple of changes for qualifying that immediately improved the setup."
A mistake at turn 14 cost him a late shot at improving his grid position, but he said he was still happy with the outcome.
"I'm not disappointed with where I finished - Heikki's lap shows that we have a gap of around six tenths to the cars behind," he said. "We're also working as hard as we can to pull away from them and try and fight with the cars ahead. Tomorrow's race gives us a chance to do that, and with good strategy and careful use of the tyres I think we can have a decent Sunday."