Kevin Magnussen admitted he hadn't even dared to believe that he could be on pole position for tomorrow's Brazilian Grand Prix sprint race.
Making his 100th race weekend appearance for Haas, Magnussen looked strong from the start and was seventh in both of the first two rounds of qualifying in changeable wet conditions at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.
But the team made sure he was first out on track on slicks for the final top ten pole shoot-out round, and it proved the ideal opportunity to punch in a brilliant flying lap.
No one else was able to match it and then the session was red flagged because of George Russell spinning off into the gravel. During the wait the rain continued to fall leaving the track too wet for anyone to go out again.
It meant celebrations broke out in the Haas garage as the team had succeeded in claiming its first ever pole - and Magnussen's maiden pole as well.
“I don’t know what to say,” Magnussen told the media in parc ferme, admitting it had been the last thing he had been expecting when he woke up. “Not even close. It’s incredible. Thank you.
“The team put me out on track on exactly the right moment," he explained. "That was the gamechanger. It gave me the best piece of track as it started to rain.
"We were first out in the pit lane, did a pretty decent lap, and we’re on pole. It’s incredible."
After completing his flying lap in Q3, Magnussen had been told over the team radio that he was on P1 by his race engineer and replied: "You're kidding! You're kidding!" He added: “I’ve never, ever felt like this in my life.”
Magnussen did his best to damp down the team's surging emotions during the red flag stoppage, as there was a chance that the session could resume and the conditions improve to allow someone to improve their time.
But reconnaissance laps by Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton on intermediates proved the track was no longer drivable - meaning that Magnussen, team principal Guenther Steiner and the whole team could start celebrating in the garage.
"It was the longest minute of my life trying to stay calm," he said. "It looked like it was going to be wet but you never know. I’m so happy.”
It's a remarkable return for the Dane, who departed Formula 1 at the end of the 2020 season after four seasons with Haas, and who started this year without any firm plans or race seat for the season.
He was recalled at short notice in February when the team was forced to drop Nikita Mazepin in the wake of Russia's military incursion in Ukraine. He was handed a multi-year contract to entice him back.
“Thank you to Gene Haas and Gunther and the whole team for this opportunity," Magnussen said. "I got back this year after a year out, and it’s just been an amazing journey. Thank you.
"I’m so chuffed!" he added.
Today's result means that Magnussen will start tomorrow's sprint race from P1 alongside Red Bull's Max Verstappen. The result of the sprint will set the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix.
Magnussen promised to be on “maximum attack” on Saturday, and added: “Let’s go for something funny.”
Unfortunately the news on the other side of the Haas garage wasn't do good, with Mick Schumacher missing the cut at the end of the first round. he will start from the back, meaning that the Haas drivers will bookend both ends of the grid.
"Congratulations to Kevin and the team, they really deserve this," Schumacher said. On my side it was a bit confusing but maybe I underestimated the grip. The track looked pretty damp, but it wasn’t as much as I thought.
"It’s very frustrating and tomorrow it means the job will be a bit harder but we’re up for it."