Brendon Hartley had his best Qualifying session of his short Formula 1 career, with the New Zealander set to start the Bahrain Grand Prix from eleventh on the grid on Sunday.
The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver had been off the pace during Friday practice but made gains on Saturday, and was desperately close to joining team-mate Pierre Gasly inside the top ten, only for Esteban Ocon to deny him by a tenth of a second.
Hartley feels Toro Rosso has made big gains since the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, with the aerodynamic upgrade giving both drivers a lot of confidence at the Bahrain International Circuit.
“There’s a bit of déjà vu from Melbourne, I just missed out on Q2 there, and in Bahrain I just missed out on Q3!” said Hartley. “We’ve definitely taken a step in the right direction as yesterday we were really on the back foot from our side of the garage.
“The team brought an update here which was actually worth a large amount of time. It’s an amazing job from Toro Rosso to bring so much performance from the aero side to the track. I only got the new package for the first time today so I was a bit behind the eight ball but, at the end, I was very close to Q3 that I have to be happy anyway – I think everyone’s done a great job.”
Unfortunately for Hartley, he was forced to use three sets of tyres in the first phase of Qualifying after hitting a bird and damaging his front wing during his first run, with the subsequent pace deficit necessitating an extra run.
“Unfortunately, I used three sets of tyres in the first part of qualifying – with hitting the bird and breaking my front wing,” said Hartley. “I don’t know how the bird is, but my front wing was destroyed! It was really close today…it’s a shame I made a small mistake on the last corner!”