Kamui Kobayashi believes the Sauber now has the chance to get its season back on track thanks to the upgrade package that has delivered a step forward at Suzuka.
The Japanese driver delighted his home crowd with a career-best qualifying performance on Saturday, even though he did not complete a flying lap in Q3. But more important than that, is the fact that a major development push that was fitted to the Sauber for the Japanese GP appears to have produced a step-forward in form – which should now allow the team to knuckle down to protect its constructors' championship position.
"It was a great job from the team with the updates," Kobayashi said. "We have struggled a lot recently, but in qualifying here we put everything together and it looks okay - really good in fact. I am really happy for this weekend.
"The car feels different now. From the beginning it felt like the balance had changed, because the updates made such a big difference. So we struggled a lot with the balance [in practice], and we have worked very hard. And it seems for qualifying it has helped a lot."
Although Kobayashi's seventh placed position on the grid owed more to detail of the qualifying regulations, since he at least started a flying lap, than outright pace, he is upbeat about the potential of Sauber going forward.
"Hopefully for the last few races it is very important for us to survive in the championship," he said. "So this is a really good time and hopefully we can boost things again. We will now try and close on Force India, and the performance here looks like a good thing."
Kobayashi was also overjoyed that he had given his home crowd something to cheer for after topping the Q1 times.
"For the fans it is very important, especially since we are back in Japan. They have supported me, which is really great, and I hope I can do something good in the race too."