Lando Norris was delighted with his performance in the final round of qualifying for the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday.
The McLaren driver had been fifth fastest in the first round of qualifying but came perilously close to missing the cut at the end of Q2, which saw his team mate Daniel Ricciardo just fail to get through.
But he was delighted with his final round performance which put him into fifth place on the grid, splitting the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the process with Alpine's Fernando Alonso in seventh.
“It has been a very good day,” he told the media in the paddock after the end of the session. “Before qualifying, we were discussing whether we should even talk about Q3 because it was very far away from what we thought we could achieve.
“Like I said, we weren’t expecting Q3 today, so to be P5 today is a good step," he said. "I’m happy! I mean, my lap in Q3 felt like a really good lap, the type of lap that you feel like you should be on pole with.
"In other categories if you do this lap, I feel like I’d be very happy with that, and if I’m not on pole then I’d be surprised. But I was still like one-and-a-bit seconds away [from pole winner Charles Leclerc].
“But apart from that, the team have done a good job," he insisted. "I feel like I’ve done a good job extracting everything, so we are in the best position we could be for tomorrow.
"I’m hoping a similar scenario happens tomorrow," he continued. "We are thinking we might have a tough race but hopefully it’s just a really easy one. I’m expecting a good race and a good battle with Fernando, maybe not the Mercedes, but I’ll try.”
Norris had previously admitted to playing 'catch-up this weekend after McLaren rolled out a major package of upgrades to the MCL36, but it seems to have paid off today.
Ricciardo was also pleased with the outcome. Despite missing the cut at the end of Q2 he will still start inside the top ten thanks to grid penalties for CarlosSainz and Kevin Magnussen who had made it through to Q3.
“I’ll take some freebies but yeah it was just tricky,” he told Sky Sports F1. "Still obviously frustrating not to be out in Q3.
"It was very close, so that probably hurts a bit more but it’s still just tricky – on a knife edge," he said. "We'll have a look back through the lap and see why I didn’t get what I wanted in some of these places,
"I think generally it’s a step forward. It’s positive, yes," he said of impact of the latest upgrades. "It’s hard kind of pushing on it and getting what I want out of it, so yeah - just a few corners which were messy, but that’s just because I’m trying ... Pushing isn’t always that friendly.
"Some corners good; some corners not so good," he explained. "Some corners I still struggle, just trying to push and getting those few more tenths out of it
"I still don’t feel like I get the reward or get the car coming back to me the way I feel," he admitted. “But there were some places - I feel like turn 1, 2 - you can feel the car is a bit better loaded and stuff.
"So there are certainly some positives, but some corners where I still scratch my head, so still a bit to find.”
As for the race, Ricciardo predicted that "it’s all going to be about tyre management tomorrow."
“Last year was a lot like that, they’re very different cars this year but this circuit is quite demanding on that," he pointed out. “So I think if we can do that well, then we can be good in the race. But I have no idea!"