Alex Albon proved his character on Saturday when he bounced back from a confidence-sapping heavy crash in practice to claim fourth place on the grid at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The London-born Thai driver will line up alongside his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen behind the two Mercedes of pole-sitter and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
It was an impressive and rewarding effort by Albon, who is fighting to keep his seat with Red Bull next year, after his badly-damaged car had been rebuilt overnight by his mechanics.
“We’re starting at the front and hopefully we can mingle in and annoy Mercedes,” said Albon.
“It was a lot of work for the guys in the garage last night, but they did a really good job to get it up and running for today.
“I was confident in the car — P4 is where we are, but at the same time I want to be closer and I want to be fighting up a bit more.
“Basically, you have to do a perfect lap to get ahead of Max! There are little bits everywhere, it’s not one thing. When you’re up against someone so quick, it’s these little things.
“There’s not one bit of tarmac he’s not using. He’s on the limit everywhere and it’s just that confidence — it’s being able to push that hard all the time.
“It’s also about pushing, but still keeping the tyres alive, which is really good.”
Albon was six-tenths of a second adrift of the Dutchman, but finished five-hundredths of a second ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, the main threat to his job at Red Bull next season.
Perez is being replaced by the incoming four-time champion Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and has said that, for him, it is Red Bull or a year off next year.
Albon, however, said he is not feeling any additional pressure and relishes his opportunity to use the highly-rated Verstappen as a marker for his own progress.
“What I see is a great way to improve as a driver,” he said of his rivalry with Verstappen. “It’s about bench-marking, improving and seeing where the lap time is. It is really good to have Max as a team-mate — to be able to compare and see that.”