Pedro de la Rosa says his first top ten qualifying result since returning to a race seat with Sauber shows that his team now has genuine pace.
Sauber had a poor start to the season, lacking both speed and reliability in the opening rounds, and de la Rosa has still to score this year. But the team was lifted by Kamui Kobayashi's spectacular run to seventh in Valencia. De la Rosa maintained that momentum by qualifying ninth at Silverstone, and was highly encouraged because the result was earned on pure speed rather than inherited.
"It's a true genuine pace, that's the good thing and that is why we are looking for points tomorrow," he said on Saturday evening at Silverstone. "It wasn't a lucky thing or because of a rainy qualifying session. We were quicker than guys that have been very quick.
"They have very competitive teams, and I am very pleased for our team because the level out there is incredible."
He said the result had come as a surprise after being unhappy with the car in practice.
"We were really not expecting to be so high up, especially after [Friday]," de la Rosa admitted. "We made a lot of changes in the car for [Saturday] and since then everything worked a lot better. The car has always been very good in high speed corners and that helps. We were already improving in Valencia, we had a new diffuser there and here we have a new front wing."
De la Rosa doubts that Sauber is ready to be competitive at every track, but thinks there are particular venues coming up where it could be in very good shape.
"Obviously Budapest will be difficult, Hockenheim we will see. It could be better," he said. "Spa should be quite good and Monza will be difficult with the low downforce and curbs.
"We just have to take it step-by-step. I don't know what changes will come for Hockenheim. We have some upgrades in the diffuser so we just have to wait and see."