Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes admitted he was overjoyed with the performance of his drivers in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen qualified in 19th position, 1.9 seconds off the quickest time in Q1 and less than half a second behind the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. Teammate Jarno Trulli was 20th, around a tenth behind the Finn. Fernandes said he was short for words to describe his joy at being so close to the midfield teams.
"Words cannot express how happy and overjoyed I am right now," said Fernandes. "To see 18 months of hard work come good with us finishing within a couple of tenths of teams that have been around for a long time, and less than a second away from the midfield pack, that is an amazing achievement.
"It is made even more satisfying after what has been a pretty hard winter test program, taking on the issues we have been working through and, honestly, not a great start to the season, but this is a great feeling. Both Heikki and Jarno know there's more to come from the car, and we feel good about the race this weekend.
"The aim is to keep our reliability and bring two cars home. I am really proud of the team, particularly after such a hard winter, so I take my hat off to every single one of them for keeping up the progress and helping us reach where we are today."
The team's technical director Mike Gascoyne said it had been an excellent day for Lotus, but admitted he was disappointed to not make it into Q2.
"A very very good day for the team, however we are left feeling a little disappointed because we felt we had a real chance of getting into Q2," he said. "We had no problems on the cars at all today, which meant we were able to show the true level of performance that we had seen in winter testing, and ultimately we were very close to Q2 on merit. The drivers did a great job and the whole team has worked very hard to turn everything around from yesterday, and from Melbourne.
"In Heikki's last run he made a couple of small mistakes and we could have been even closer, but, looking at the positives, we are all looking forward to the race tomorrow."