An almost entranced Kimi Raikkonen made light on Saturday of the 15th pole position of his career after he had narrowly outpaced home hero Fernando Alonso in qualifying for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
The Finn, who is the early season leader of this year's title race and also the defending drivers world champion, clocked a best time of one minute and 21.813 seconds in his Ferrari to take his first pole of the season narrowly ahead of local hero Spaniard Fernando Alonso in a Renault.
Alonso, the double world champion and supported at the Circuit de Catalunya by a huge army of Spanish fans, was very close to being the fastest man and was only outpaced in the closing seconds.
"It's a nice feeling," said Raikkonen. "It is the best place to start the race and that is what matters. We (Ferrari) were on pole last year and we want to win again.
"That is what matters. The car felt good and I enjoyed that. But it was a bit close. Now we have to get the job done."
Raikkonen, so relaxed it seemed at times that his eyes were about to close, looked like a man who had been for a gentle walk in the warm Spring sunshine that bathed the circuit and brought pleasant air temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius.
Alonso, who did not believe it was possible, was left to praise his team after grabbing a place on the front row of the grid.
"I never talked about this and to be honest we did not think this would happen, not just here, but in the whole season," he said.
"I must give great praise for this to everyone in the team who has worked so hard, both at Enstone in England and in France, in Paris. It has been a big effort from everyone and the car is much better."
Asked how it was that he had stated on Saturday that the best his fans should expect from him was seventh on the grid, but he wound up second, he said: "The best to expect on Sunday is seventh again. Please don't expect a podium - that would be too optimistic.
"I think we are in much better shape but there are many reasons for this, what has happened now in Q3. We have gone for our optimum strategy and this result is better than we anticipated with that strategy.
"We never know what the fuel situation is with the others. The car is so much better and for us to be fourth-fastest in Q2 seemed impossible before. Let us see what happens in the race."
Alonso's effort caused many in the 115,000 crowd to leap from their seats and cheer wildly and the Oviedo man's comments afterwards pointed towards a light fuel load and a strategy geared towards running for grid positions, but pitting early in the race.
"Only Fernando knows what happened with his car," said Raikkonen's Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa, who was third fastest ahead of Poland's Robert Kubica in the leading BMW Sauber with Briton Lewis Hamilton struggling to make fifth place for McLaren Mercedes.
His team-mate Finn Heikki Kovalianen was sixth ahead of Australian Mark Webber in a Red Bull, Italian Jarno Trulli of Toyota, German Nick Heidfeld in the second BMW and Brazilian Nelson Piquet in the second Renault.
The first two mini-sessions saw the removal of 12 slower drivers from the fray.
In the first session, when Raikkonen was the fastest man, Briton David Coulthard in his Red Bull failed to make the cut by finishing 17th, just ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Germany in his Toro Rosso.
Also out went Italian Giancarlo Fisichella of Force India, German Adrian Sutil, his team-mate, Briton Anthony Davidson of the cash-starved Super-Aguri team and his partner Japanese Takuma Sato.
The second part-session saw the elimination of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, in his Honda, Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams, Jenson Button of Britain in a Honda, German Timo Glock in a Toyota, German Nico Rosberg in a Williams and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais in a Toro Rosso.