Heikki Kovalainen said Caterham always believed it could get into Q2 in Bahrain, after claiming the team's best qualifying result of the 2012 season so far with 16th on the Sakhir grid.
It was the first time Caterham had progressed beyond the first part of qualifying since the team rebranded itself from its former Team Lotus identity this year. The squad's last Q2 appearance came at Spa in 2011.
"We thought that with the conditions today, being hot and pretty windy, we might be able to use the option tyres to get us into Q2, and it worked out," said Kovalainen. "We've also saved a set of tires for tomorrow, and with the degradation rates we've seen yesterday and today it's clear tire management is going to play a big role tomorrow."
The Finn described the result as a vindication for Caterham after it had appeared to fall short of its goals for 2012 in the opening grands prix.
"We've worked really hard to put ourselves in a position where we can fight and today we showed that we are close enough to record results like we did today," said Kovalainen.
"We made progress over the winter, and even though we haven't really shown it yet this season, today's the sort of result we knew we could put in, so it's a great day, for everyone in Caterham F1 Team back at the factory and here on track."
Caterham technical director Mark Smith said the performance represented clear steps forward.
"This morning we had a very good FP3 and the work we have done overnight has paid off with Heikki's result today," he said. "Everything on his car worked as we had planned and this is a clear sign that the whole team is making progress."
Kovalainen's teammate Vitaly Petrov was 20th after struggling to make the most of his soft tires, but will gain a place from Pastor Maldonado's grid penalty.