The smile was back on Fernando Alonso's face as Aston Martin regained its previous strong form just when it counted in qualifying for the Miami GP on Saturday.
The team struggled last week in Azerbaijan, and looked to be off-colour again in Miami after a sluggish start on Friday and an underwhelming performance in final practice which left Alonso in P12.
"Things have been a bit up and down for the last few events – Baku was very difficult," Alonso admitted afterwards. "I think FP3 was a little bit messy for us.
“This was a particularly tricky day to manage," commented team principal Mike Krack. "In FP3, we had to deal with a change in wind direction and a rapidly changing track surface while also trying to find a good race set-up.
"[We were] also trying to find a good race set-up after two stop-start sessions yesterday. All credit to Fernando, who drove with typical fiery spirit."
"It was difficult the whole weekend," admitted Alonso. "It's a very narrow racing line that we are cleaning. It gets quite grippy, but offline it gets quite slippery.
"We tried different set-ups and they didn't work," he said. "But the team obviously put the car in a more known place after the first four races and the car came alive in qualifying.
"The car felt good ... I did enjoy every lap, it was so enjoyable to drive," he continued. "Especially the low-speed corners here [which are] are quite tricky
"You go quite close to the walls between turn 11 and 16 so you need to have that confidence in the car to really attack qualifying," he explained. "I had the confidence today, so I was very pleased."
Even so, Alonso remained 12th again at the end of the first round of qualifying leaving him looking under pressure to survive the second cut and make it into the final top ten pole shoot-out.
But then the AMR23 successfully found its groove and Alonso was third quickest at the end of Q2, while his initial push lap in Q3 saw him second quickest behind Sergio Perez.
Whether he could have kept that position all the way to the chequered flag we will never know, because the session was curtailed by a red flag trigged by Charles Leclerc's accident before anyone could run a second time.
"There was still a lot more pace in the car because my Q3 lap was done on used softs," he pointed out. "On my second run, on fresh rubber, I was already a few tenths up – but then the yellow flags came out."
As it was, his existing time was enough to secure Alonso another front row grid position for tomorrow's race, and he intends to put it to the best use possible. "Extremely happy with P2, obviously," he said. "First row of the grid, let's see what we can do.
"The result gives us a lot of confidence for tomorrow. Sunday is usually our day: we take care of the tyres and have good race pace. And starting further up the grid always makes things a little easier.
"Getting on the podium will still be difficult but we’ll just do our race. It’s going to be tough but we’ll enjoy it.”
His team mate Lance Stroll had a less happy outcome to the day, missing the cut at the end of the first round leaving him a disappointing P18 on tomorrow's grid.
"We were too aggressive with our tyre strategy in Q1, choosing to keep both drivers on used softs for their second runs," admitted Krack. "It was a marginal call, and it didn’t work out."
“Qualifying didn’t go my way today," sighed Stroll. "We made the call to try and get through Q1 running just one set of softs. With the benefit of hindsight, that wasn’t the right call.
"Other teams fitted a second set and saw big improvements. But these things happen, and Fernando got into Q2 using just the one set, so it was possible.
"I’m just focusing on the positives: our car feels good and our race pace is usually very competitive. Tomorrow is when the points are scored, and there’s a long race ahead.”