Earl Bamber caused a stir in his maiden GP2 Asia qualification session by securing ninth position on the grid for the first round in China.
Bamber makes his debut this weekend despite minimal GP2 experience, while Asia-only team QI-Meritus is also arguably on the back foot compared to their rivals who race in the series all year round.
Nonetheless, despite a steady start in free practice, Bamber hauled himself up inside the top ten during qualifying to be classified as the second best rookie on the grid. A fine effort for the 18-year-old, the New Zealander admits he is still being cautious until he fully gets to grips with the car.
"I was not so pleased in the morning because we had a lot of traffic and I don't yet really know the limits of the car so it was hard to push at the right moment. The first session was a real experience on such a huge scale track which offers a mixture of very different corners.
“There are some slow areas but also several fast sections. It is very challenging. I like this even if I was cautions from the start.
“I think we can set a good pace for the race following my ninth place in qualifying. The team worked hard during the session and we improved the car balance. The tyres worked well and the car was fine. Let's see how it works and what we can achieve. I hope my good luck continues."
Team-mate Alex Yoong, meanwhile, didn't fare so well, the former Formula 1 driver struggling with gearbox woes to be left down in 23rd position.
"I arrived at Shanghai very motivated after I familiarised myself with the car during the previous week's test session. It's a pity that we did not have more track time before our first practice session, but what really counts is qualifying. After the first 30 minute run this morning I must say that I quite like this circuit.
“The first three corners are among the most difficult. It is all about getting into them with a lot of speed, and the first corner is pretty fast initially. But then it tightens up more and more and you have to shift down a gear.
“Getting out the other end in good shape is a bit more difficult. I like this even if it is a bit disappointing not to have been able to do a decent qualifying lap. With so little running, my brakes and tyres were never at the right temperature. But the team has time to fine tune the car for the first race tomorrow.”