Carlos Sainz said that not being tempted to push too hard in the opening sectors of his final run in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had been crucial to a successful outcome.
The Ferrari driver will start from fifth place on the grid for tomorrow's season finale, after finishing as one of a group of four cars covered by barely more than a tenth of a second at the chequered flag.
"I am pretty satisfied with my performance today," said Sainz, who admitted to struggling for form in Friday's practice sessions at Yas Marina Circuit.
"Yesterday was one of the most difficult Fridays in a long time and we’ve managed to recover well," he said. "We worked hard to put together a competitive car so my thanks to the entire team.
"Sector three was key," he asserted. "Not pushing the tyres too much in the first two sectors and going for it at the end translated into a good lap.
"Looking at the timesheet, it could have been even better since Lando [Norris] is only a few hundredths of a second ahead of me.
"Tomorrow in the race it’s not going to be easy to pass but we will try our best to give him a good fight and gain some positions," he said. "I want to end my first season with Scuderia Ferrari on a high.
"This session confirms I’ve made solid progress in qualifying since the beginning of the year, so that’s another positive from today."
In contrast to Sainz, his team mate Charles Leclerc was disappointed with the outcome despite finishing only two places lower in seventh place.
"We had the potential to do better today," he said. "My first and second sectors were coming together very well, but I probably pushed a bit too much.
"I had no grip left by the time I arrived at the last sector. It’s a shame, but that’s life," he added.
"It’s going to be tough for us to fight back tomorrow, but we will do our best. We are strong in terms of our race pace, so hopefully we can put it all together one last time this season."
"Carlos and Charles gave it their best shot," commented Ferrari's racing director Laurent Mekies. "They were in the hunt for a place on the second row right to the end.
"Their grid positions are a good starting point for tomorrow’s race," he added. "Tomorrow we will try and convert that into a good result in order to achieve the goals we are still pursuing."
With a 38.5 point margin, Ferrari are almost assured of claiming third place on the constructors championship ahead of their McLaren rivals in tomorrow's final race of the season.
But Leclerc, Sainz and Lando Norris are also very closely matched in the drivers championship and any one of them could yet claim fifth place and 'best of the rest' honours behind their counterparts from Mercedes and Red Bull.
Leclerc currently has a four point advantage, but their McLaren rival will start ahead of both Ferraris from third on the grid when the lights go out.