Valtteri Bottas gave the beleaguered Williams team a welcome boost after six tough grand prix weekends by annexing a second row start for the Canadian round in Montreal.
Despite making his first appearance on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and having languished towards the bottom of the timesheets in similar conditions during final free practice, the Finn produced a stunningly consistent display on a tricky surface to claim third spot on the grid behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas, whose best race result so far in 2013 is eleventh in Malaysia, showed unexpectedly strong pace in the changeable wet conditions, finishing in the top four in all three qualifying sessions and securing by far his – and the team's - best qualifying position of the season.
“The team did a really good job today,” the inaugural GP3 Series champion admitted, “The showers made the track very slippery, but this suited us as the car handled the conditions well, and we were on the right tyres at the right time, which was so important today.
“The whole team has been working hard to improve our performance and we have been making steady improvements with each race, [but] if the conditions are dry tomorrow then it will be difficult to stay where we are, so I will be hoping that we see some rain.”
Ten places separated Bottas from team-mate Pastor Maldonado, but technical director Mike Coughlan was quick to point out that the Venezuelan had been unlucky with the timing of red flags in Q2 and could easily have joined the rookie in the pole position shoot-out.
“I was on my best lap when the red flag came out and, when the session resumed, there was a lot of traffic around me,” Maldonado confirmed, “We were more competitive today and I think the conditions really suited us.
“The conditions were very challenging for all the drivers, as the track was changing with every lap and you needed to be out at the right time on the right tyre, but Valtteri qualifying in third place gives the whole team a boost and hopefully we can score points tomorrow.”
With deputy team principal Claire Williams confirming that the Grove-based squad had 'found a direction' that improved the FW35, Coughlan also praised the efforts going on behind the scenes.
“We feel that we have made another step forward in performance but, ultimately, we were able to capitalise on the conditions today,” he added, “We worked well as a team to get the best position on track at the right time, and P3 was the result.
“If it is dry tomorrow, it will be difficult to hold that position, but we will be fighting hard for points with both cars. It's a well-deserved result for Valtteri and for the whole team and it gives us all a real boost after all the hard work everyone has been putting in.”