After a contentious start to its Australian Grand Prix weekend, Sauber only narrowly missed out on a place in the qualifying top ten as rookie Felipe Nasr showed that he deserved a place in the top flight.

Although the spectre of Giedo van der Garde's contract has not been eliminated, the distraction was removed ahead of final practice in Melbourne and, after a top ten showing, Nasr was confident that he could challenge for a similar position in his first F1 qualifying session.

In the end, he broke into the top ten too early, and was swiftly shuffled backwards as other drivers improved on his time in the closing moments of Q2. Nevertheless, eleventh place - ahead of much-vaunted Toro Rosso new boy Max Verstappen and the combined might of Force India and McLaren - was more than enough for a driver who had been forced to miss the whole of FP1 on Friday.

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"As a team, we can be happy that we nearly made it into Q3," the Brazilian commented, "Missing FP1 on Friday affected the performance of the car to a certain extent, and I also had less time getting to know the new track in Melbourne, so, all in all I am satisfied with the result and am looking forward to the race.

"Tomorrow is an important day with it being my first ever F1 race, and we are going to push for points."

Qualifying hadn't started to well for Sauber but, as head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara explained, greater track time eventually paid off for the team's latest young talent.

"The early afternoon session allowed us to recover some of the mileage we lost yesterday, so we were able to sort out the balance of the car, but both drivers were caught out by the change in the weather conditions in Q1, and the session was not as good as we wanted it to be," he reflected, "It took a while to get the car back on pace, but unfortunately Marcus got stuck in Q1.

"We just made it with Felipe and then, in the next session, by building more confidence in the car, he did a good job and was able to clinch eleventh position, which we can be pleased with as a starting point and we are approaching the race with confidence."

With Sauber coming off the back of its worst season in F1, there will be a little extra pressure for Nasr - and team-mate Marcus Ericsson - to restore its reputation as a point-scorer, but embattled team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was delighted that the squad's strong pre-season showings have been borne out in competition.

"It was a strong first qualifying for the team and we are pleased to confirm the positive impression from the winter tests," she claimed, "It is also nice to see the car further in front, which gives the team additional motivation. We are going into the race with good prospects for a positive result."