Renault's Nico Hulkenberg says he produced the best qualifying lap of his Formula One career to claim seventh place on the grid for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg put in an impressive lap to secure seventh for the second qualifying in a row, having recorded the same position in last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. The session marked the first time Renault has made it into Q3 with both its cars since Belgium in 2015, but it was Hulkenberg who earned the team's best result, finishing one second down on Valtteri Bottas' pole-time.
"This was seriously, together with the lap from Brazil in 2010, my best quali lap in my career," Hulkenberg said. "Especially around here, which I always found a track where I used to struggle in qualifying before to hook it all up perfectly but today it went smooth as silk. It was beautiful. A great lap.
"I'm happy, I'm positive from that respect. I think already yesterday we saw that one lap pace, the car has one lap pace. It's like naturally there. I think that's probably our strong point at the moment. So that's pretty good, positive.
"Long run pace and tyre management, we will obviously find that out tomorrow. In Shanghai we were struggling a bit but yesterday we got some good long runs in. We tried to work against it a bit in Shanghai, made some changes. I hope that it's better tomorrow. I think tomorrow will be a true test."
Hulkenberg insists Renault's one lap pace did not come as a surprise to him, after showing flashes of promise during pre-season testing at Barcelona.
"I felt since winter testing it was there. In winter testing in Barcelona we did a sub-1m20s lap time with not crazy low fuel and under good normal circumstances, not underweight, so from the beginning the car was good with that."
The German says that while he can take encouragement from the fact his lap was less than 0.3s slower than Max Verstappen's time in sixth, he expects Renault will struggle to compete with both Red Bull and Williams' long run pace in Sunday's grand prix.
"We always see that the gaps in qualifying are surprisingly close but then in the race suddenly it is like a second or something. In a race, when the tyre is not good anymore after 10 laps, the real difference comes out much bigger. I don't think we can compete with the likes of Red Bull and everybody. I think even Williams in the race, they look pretty strong. Let's see what we can do."