Third place on the grid is a 'nice surprise', that was Nico Hulkenberg's remark after a brilliant lap in Q3 ensured he will line-up on the second row for Sunday's 2013 F1 Italian Grand Prix.
The German has been lucky to make it through to the top-ten shootout this season, and to date has lined-up tenth or better only three times.
However he aced it in the third qualifying session at Monza on Saturday to give the Sauber team a well needed boost, given the squad's well-documented financial issues away from the track.
“I am happy. This was a nice surprise for all of us. I didn't expect that after a very difficult Friday,” Hulkenberg said. “Yesterday we struggled a lot with the car and the guys have done a fantastic job turning it around to give me such a competitive car today. It is a highlight for the whole team. Such a result will lift our spirits.
“During qualifying the car just got better and better and the track improved as well. We made the right decision to go for one timed lap in Q3 and then this happened.”
“I hope the long run pace is good now tomorrow. A big thank you to the whole team and everyone in Hinwil, who have been working hard and have never given up in this difficult year,” he added.
Sauber team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn and Sauber's head of track engineering, Tom McCullough meanwhile were equally pleased, although team-mate Esteban Gutierrez had a far tougher session and was knocked out in Q1. He qualified in 17th.
“Every lap he did, Nico chipped away finding more and more in himself and the car, and he executed a perfect Q3 lap to clinch P3 on the grid,” said McCullough. “This is obviously a little bit above our competitiveness from a race performance point of view, but our aim for sure [on Sunday] is to improve our points tally."
“We are very happy with a result like that,” Kaltenorn continued. “Of course, there are two sides to it. Step by step we could see the development of the car was going in the right direction. On top of that the engineers did a fantastic job, working all night to turn the car around. [But] in addition the driver has to get the most out of the car, [and] deliver a perfect lap [too].”