Pastor Maldonado says he went into qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya expecting a top ten grid slot - he left with a front row position.
The Williams driver finished Saturday's final practice in second place, 0.168s down on Sebastian Vettel and was looking strong ahead of qualifying.
However, not many expected him to be that strong as Maldonado drove to a P2 grid slot, half a second down on Lewis Hamilton's pole position time.
"I think we have been working so hard since the beginning of the year, trying to understand these tyres and develop our cars around the tyres," he said.
"And we actually made a good step forward for this race. The car looks consistent, especially in race pace, so it's a great feeling to be here, first time in top three.
"We improved our worst thing, which was qualifying pace. So I am happy for the team, for my country and for myself."
Maldonado added that he went into qualifying believing a top ten positon was possible, although a front row grid slot was probably beyond his dreams.
"(On Friday) we thought the top ten was possible, and this morning I was quite surprised by our performance, because our car was so quick lower fuel.
"So this morning we thought it was possible."