Charles Leclerc admitted that he hadn't been expecting to qualify on the front row for the start of tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a problematic build up to the session for Ferrari.
Leclerc had topped FP2 but his team mate Carlos Sainz crashed early in the session and failed to recover his pace on Saturday after the team rebuilt his car overnight.
Leclerc was fifth quickest in final practice while Sainz was slowest of all, and the Spaniard missed the first cut in qualifying and will start from P16.
Leclerc made it through to the final top ten pole shoot-out, but was only ninth after his first run in Q3. He had to dig deep to put together an improved final time good enough to put him on the front row, 0.139s behind Max Verstappen.
"Q1 and Q2, I was worried to go through and at the end a front row, so it's amazing," he said. "For some reason our car is very peaky. Whenever we were on scrubbed tyres, like the first run in Q3 was a very good lap, we were last.
"I didn't have many hopes, but then when we put on the new tyres everything came alive," he continued. "It felt great. Again, I did a great lap. Really happy to be on the front row, but it's a big surprise!
"Honestly, considering the weekend we've had until now, I did not expect it at all, that last lap," he insisted.
"I knew I had to put absolutely everything together. "I did the last corner, there was a bit too much sliding, but I think everybody has had that."
Second place on the grid gives Leclerc the ideal chance to snatch the lead of the race into the first corner when the lights go out for to get the final race of 2023 underway.
But the Monegasque admitted that Verstappen was not the primary focus tomorrow and that the main sim was to beat Mercedes to the runner's up spot in the 2023 constructors' championship.
Just four points divide the two teams. Leclerc could deliver that if he finished tomorrow's race in P2 and George Russell comes home no nigher than fourth.
Their team mates look to be out of the picture with Lewis Hamilton starting outside the points in P11 after missing the cut at the end of Q2, and Sainz facing a huge task getting underway from P16.
"I hope it's going to go well," Leclerc said. "That's the target, to beat [Mercedes] in the constructors' championship.
"I really hope Carlos can have a great start and then join me in the fight," he added. ""Let's try and put both of our cars in front of both Mercedes and come back home with a second place in the constructors'.
"That's all that matters to me this weekend."