For the first time this season, HRT have managed to qualify a car higher than the back row of the grid as Pedro de la Rosa took P22 today in Bahrain.
The team used the fact that they out-qualified Marussia driver Timo Glock as further evidence of their steadily improving performance.
“I'm very happy to be honest,” said de la Rosa. “We come from not qualifying in Australia not long ago, so when I saw the times we posted I was glad.
“For us it's an important jump and, sincerely, at such a complicated track for us as this one, we didn't expect to finish ahead of one Marussia, so that's satisfying.
“Tyre degradation is high and tomorrow I will have to find the compromise in the first part of the sector in order to have enough rubber for the last one to maintain some grip.
“We know that the race will be a three-stop or four-stop one and that we're going to struggle, but so will everyone else so we have to go for it and do the best we can”.
Narain Karthikeyan, however, was the slowest driver in qualifying for the fourth time in four races. He took comfort from the fact that HRT are getting closer to the teams in front.
“The amazing thing is that we haven't done much to the car but we're quite close to the group ahead of us and that's very positive,” said the Indian driver. “We found a lot of time from yesterday to today, so we can safely say we've shown real progress. Tomorrow is another day and the race will be quite difficult because of the massive tyre degradation but what's certain is that we're heading into it fully confident that we can do it”.
Toni Cuquerella, HRT Technical Director, highlighted the positives that the team can take from this session. “We've continued to progress adequately and, once again, surpassed the cut without any problems,” he explained. “To be more precise, this time we were in the 104.3% and much closer to our rivals.
“Tomorrow an exciting race awaits us because we expect to see between three and four stops per car since the degradation of the tyres is high. It will also be a challenge for the brakes and the cooling in long distance as conditions will be tough. Management of all these elements will be key”.