Fernando Alonso felt the lap that earned him fourth on the Spanish Grand Prix was so good it might have been impossible for him to repeat.
After a tough time in practice, which included the FIA banning Ferrari's latest rear wing design, Alonso managed to split the McLarens and get onto the second row of the grid for his home race.
"I did a perfect lap: I reckon that if I tried to repeat it 30 times, I could not do better!" he said. "When you do a lap like that it's hard to put into words what one feels: always being on the limit, in every corner is a really special feeling for a driver. I am very happy with this result, because we have never made it to the second row this year."
He admitted that there was still a huge amount of work to do to catch Red Bull, but was convinced that Ferrari was making good progress despite this weekend's difficulties.
"Sure, pole position is still a long way off: Today, Red Bull was once again out of reach and we must work hard to try and get closer," Alonso said. "This morning we ran some setup changes on the car that did not produce the results we were expecting, also partly down to the conditions changing in terms of wind direction. We went back to what we had before for qualifying and instantly it was better. In general, we have made a step forward in performance terms, thanks to the updates we have brought here."
The Spaniard hopes to be in contention for a podium in the race, though he expects the McLarens to be tough competition.
"So far, in the races we have gone better than in qualifying and so I think we can be in the fight for the podium," he said. "It will be tough at the start because the McLarens always get off the line well and then they have one more new set of soft tires than we do."
Team boss Stefano Domenicali was amazed at the turnaround between practice and qualifying, and put it mainly down to Alonso's performance.
"This sport never stops throwing up surprises!" Domenicali said. "This morning we had the worst FP3 of the year, with both cars struggling a lot and then we find ourselves commenting on our best qualifying position.
"Certainly, this fourth place was down to an incredible performance from Fernando, who drove a simply stunning lap in Q3: It is further valediction, if one was ever needed, of why we have made the right choice in extending our relationship in the long term."
Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa qualified eighth.
"This was definitely not the qualifying performance we were expecting, but all weekend long we have struggled with the balance of the car. We would have needed to be perfect to start a bit further up the order and that was not the case," he said. "Let's hope that, on full tanks, the car works better and then we can see if we can get a good result."