Daniel Ricciardo was in high spirits after clinching seventh place on the grid for Sunday's F1 Chinese Grand Prix, the first time he's started in the top ten since Bahrain last year.

"That's nearly a whole year," said the Toro Rosso driver, adding that it was nice to make it into the top ten again. Nor was he one of those to squander the opportunity by staying safely tucked up in the team garage conserving tyres, either - even though tactics were firmly on his mind as he took to the track in Shanghai on Saturday.

"You could see that most of us waited until the last moments in Q3 to go out, with everyone thinking about saving tyres for tomorrow," he said. "The Options were having a hard time on a long run on Friday.

"The guys have been working so hard back at the factory and they've made the car quicker, so well done to everyone," he continued. "This result will boost everyone's spirits - and mine as well and I really can't wait for the lights to go out tomorrow!"

"I think it will be an exciting race," the Australian added. "I am definitely looking forward to having a strong race tomorrow and will give it all I've got to make the most of this seventh place on the grid."

His team mate Jean-Eric Vergne will have his work cut out to match Ricciardo in tomorrow's race, after dropping out of qualifying in Q2 and having to settle for 15th place on the grid after Mark Webber's grid penalty for running out of fuel is taken into account.

"That was disappointing," admitted the French driver. "I've been on the pace since Friday [but] something didn't feel quite right on the car this afternoon. However, I am sure we can sort things out for tomorrow.

"When you see where my team-mate qualified then that has to be a positive sign for tomorrow, because the car is clearly working well," he offered, turning to the brighter side of things. "The car has definitely improved compared to the first two races."

Asked to explain why the STR8 was suddenly looking so much better at China compared with its first two lacklustre showings of 2013, the team's technical director James Key said that it was the result of Toro Rosso's rolling program of incremental upgrades.

"We brought some relatively subtle changes here that improved on the hardware we had for the first two races which we hoped would allow us to make a good step forward - and overall they have," he said.

"We didn't expect to be significantly better here, as this track has traditionally been difficult for us," he conceded. "However, all weekend our performance has been reasonable and we had a smoother time from Friday to Saturday than at the previous races and the car is responding well to changes."

"Daniel put in a fantastic effort, doing everything right and finding a huge amount of time with each new tyre set. It was a well controlled drive and he thoroughly deserves to have got to Q3 and a seventh place on the grid," he added. "It was really unfortunate for Jev, who up until this afternoon was on the same pace as his team-mate. However, we've come from sixteenth on the grid to score points on Sunday, so we can remain optimistic."

Vergne certainly wasn't giving up on the weekend just yet.

"There will be plenty of opportunities to do something from here in the race," he said confidently. "The tyre situation is quite complicated and we will have to see how to make the most of them, because the right strategy will be the biggest factor tomorrow afternoon."