Nico Hülkenberg will start the 2013 F1 Grand Prix of China from tent place on the grid after making it through to the final stage of qualifying - even if he didn't come out on track to join the other contenders for the final pole position shoot-out.
"I think it was a good and successful qualifying.," said Hülkenberg after sitting out Q3 in the comfort and safety f the Sauber garage. "If someone had told us before qualifying that we are going to finish P10, I would have not believed it."
Not turning a lap in the final part of qualifying wasn't due to any technical problems, the German driver confirmed, but was instead a conscious team tactic relating to tyre management, giving him an extra set of tyres for Sunday's race and also a free hand in selecting the tyre compound he would use to start the race in Shanghai.
"As we did not try to set a lap time in Q3, maybe there would have been more on the table," he acknowledged. "[But] we've done everything right with our approach in Q3 not to run and instead save our tyres, which now gives us the free choice of tyres to start with, which can be an advantage. Now we have got to make the right choice!"
Certainly the 25-year-old driver, now in his third full year of F1 competition after stints at Williams and Force India before moving to Sauber at the start of 2013, was happy t the progress that the team was making this weekend.
"The updates the team has brought to the track worked pretty well and everything went smoothly for us in qualifying," he said. "I was reasonably happy with the balance of the car, so I look forward to tomorrow."
"We are very happy about this result," confirmed Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. "This is a very important step for the team and also significant in order to exploit the potential of the car. Nico put in an outstanding lap in Q2 and showed our progress on the track."
Unfortunately there was less positive news from the other side of the Sauber garage, after Hülkenberg's team mate Esteban Gutiérrez made a mistake on his quick lap in Q1 and ended up 18th, although he gains a position thanks to the fuel penalty handed out to Red Bull driver Mark Webber after qualifying.
"Well, it's quite a disappointing qualifying result," admitted the Mexican, still finding his feet in his rookie season in F1. "It was very challenging to put a first quick lap together with only one chance.
"It is very critical and I was trying to push a little too hard and ended up making a small mistake, which cost us a lot," he said. "I will improve on that side and make sure everything I am doing in the car is very precise.
"I feel very sorry for the team, as we had the potential to easily make it into Q2 and then to fight to get into Q3," he added. "The speed which shows the potential of the car is motivating, but we still need to put everything together, and that includes from my side."
"For Esteban, we hope he will get some opportunities in the race and will be able to use them," contributed Kaltenborn.