Kevin Magnussen felt the race weekend had been going well in Singapore, but did not expect to get his Haas into Q3 and qualify P9.
Heavy rain had soaked the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the approach to the final practice session, continuing into the early stages of that hour.
As the night set in for qualifying, the track had dried, but not enough for drivers to start on slick tyres, though late Q2 gambles on the slicks made way for most of the top 10 heading out for Q3 on dry tyres.
Magnussen initially headed out on the intermediates for Q3, but as it quickly became apparent that slicks were the way to go, he too boxed for soft rubber.
The end result was Magnussen qualifying P9, sealing his first top-10 start since the Austrian Grand Prix, an achievement beyond what he had expected.
“It’s been looking really positive all weekend, but not this positive,” he told reporters. “Of course, P9 was a bit more than we could expect. But that’s great.
“I mean, qualifying in Singapore is very important. So super happy. We got a good result here.”
Ahead of the Singapore race weekend, Magnussen had spoken of losing his way this season after several changes of race engineer.
This weekend he was working with Haas’ new recruit Mark Slade for the first time, the pair familiar with each other from their Renault days, and Magnussen was full of praise for Slade, who he said did a “flawless” job.
“My new race engineer Mark Slade did a fantastic job coming back after many years not running a car as a race engineer,” said Magnussen.
“He was flawless and you know, at the end there in Q3, I told the team ‘look, I don’t know what we should do, make a decision’. And they made absolutely the right decision.
“So it was great to be able to just put all responsibility on them and they pulled it off.”
Asked how tough it is for him to be working with a new race engineer at an event like this, seen as the most physically demanding on the calendar, Magnussen felt that question should actually be set the other way around.
“I think maybe it’s most challenging for him to jump in and with such a big responsibility, with very limited preparation, so very proud of him and the whole team,” Magnussen stated.
So, if more rain falls for the Grand Prix, which is a possibility, then he believes that there will be opportunities.
“I think overall we really felt a big step forward compared to yesterday and we had a good feeling in FP3,” he said. “For qualifying, unfortunately it dried out a bit more than I was hoping for.
“On that last lap I overcooked the tyres going into the second sector so maybe some tools that I used just weren’t right for the conditions, so the rears were moving around a lot and I didn’t make the time up that I wanted to.
“I’m happy about the feeling and the improvement and the work the team and I have done. If it’s raining tomorrow there are definitely chances because our car is strong in the wet, so let’s do the rain dance.”