S?bastien Bourdais has admitted that he feared he would be dropping out of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this weekend at the very first hurdle - before going on to produce what he described as 'the best Q3 lap [he has] done all year' to seal ninth spot on the grid.

After shining with the seventh-best time in the final free practice session in the morning, the Frenchman - still unaware of whether he has a future in Formula 1 beyond the end of the 2008 campaign - languished right down at the bottom of the timesheets as the clock ticked down in Q1, only for a last-ditch effort to haul him up to eleventh and save his skin.

From there he went on to place eighth in Q2, before venturing out for just a single run on what looked to be a heavy fuel load in Q3 which proved good enough to secure ninth position on the grid. From there, he hopes, he will be able to battle for points in one final bid to prove to Scuderia Toro Rosso's top brass that he deserves to retain his seat.

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"Naturally you want to end the season on a high note," the record-breaking four-time Champ Car king acknowledged, "and this result is super, to be in Q3 again for the sixth time this season.

"Things have been getting better over the past few races, and this performance today confirms that. My lap was probably the best Q3 lap I've done this year, so I am very happy.

"My first run in Q1 was a disaster, and on the second one I caught a kerb, so I was really worried it was all over. Then in Q2 I just managed to do a good enough lap to make it into the top ten. Tomorrow there's a strong chance of rain, and I think our strategy is flexible enough to deal with that."

Indeed, Bourdais knows just how critical it will be for him to sign off with a strong showing this weekend - as it appears he will not be in attendance at a three-day test in Barcelona later this month during which the small Faenza-based outfit will try out different potential drivers for 2009.

"I want to finish in style," the 29-year-old told La Presse. "It is important for next year. The last impression you make can count because they [the team bosses] have not decided what they are going to do."

Sebastian Vettel made it double cause for celebration by putting the sister STR3 also firmly inside the top ten around the Autodromo Carlos Pace in S?o Paulo, pipping his team-mate by two positions to seal seventh place and see to it that the Red Bull 'junior' concern has now got both cars through to Q3 five times in the last six outings.

"Good to get both cars in Q3 for the final time this year," the young German summarised. "It was a fun session. I had a very strong lap in Q2, then Q3 started very well and I got a good first run, but I'm not too sure where I lost the time on my second run, because I lost a bit of feeling for the tyres."

"Two cars in Q3 again is excellent," agreed STR technical director Giorgio Ascanelli. "Both drivers did a good job and the car - while not perfect - is in reasonable shape. Obviously we are on two very different strategies to cover all the options for tomorrow, because of the uncertainty concerning the weather. Therefore it's equally obvious that the car on the fastest strategy is ahead of the other one. Definitely a very good job from the whole team."