After its recent qualifying woes, Ferrari was given a welcome shot in the arm in Canada as Sebastian Vettel ended up just 0.178 seconds off Lewis Hamilton's pole position time.
The team had spent weeks pondering why recent qualifying efforts had not gone its way, with a clear focus emerging on its need to better manage tyres.
Its investigations about this area had ramped up after the Monaco Grand Prix, when again Ferrari had been unable to make the step up needed in Q3 to properly challenge Mercedes.
And its conclusion was that the issue revolved not around potential tyre pressure management – but instead was related to how the tyres were prepared prior to the actual qualifying effort.
Motorsport.com understands that Ferrari's drivers were given very detailed procedural instructions in Montreal about how to warm-up the tyres ahead of their qualifying efforts.
The result was that Vettel, who had recently struggled to make much of a step forward from his Q2 efforts, jumped from a 1m13.857 in Q2 to a 1m12.990 in Q3.
Kimi Raikkonen, who ended up sixth overall, jumped from a 1m13.849s to a 1m13.579s.
Of course, some of the progress will be down to the upgraded turbo that has appeared on the Ferrari for the first time in Montreal, but being so close to Mercedes after all the effort gone into sorting qualifying was hugely welcome.
Pirelli spots the difference
Even tyre supplier Pirelli noticed that Ferrari had done something different this time out.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery told Motorsport.com: “They certainly did a great lap – which was very close to the wall on a lot of occasions.
“It was a great lap from Seb. I think you can see that people were taking a different approach: their out-lap being much harder than they would have historically managed. I think you saw them [Ferrari] on the out-lap starting to push very hard already.”
When asked if this preparation was more to do with getting around car set-up issues or driver style, Hembery said: “I think it is both.
“The set-up of the car, they were looking particularly at the front end. Getting temperature in to the front end was the real challenge for some teams and they have clearly worked on that coming here.”
Vettel much happier
While the scale of Vettel's progress may have surprised even those within the team, for Vettel his confidence in what Ferrari had done was evident early in the session when he believed a pole bid was on.
“I think going into qualifying I thought it was possible,” said Vettel. “As a driver you always feel that there’s a little bit more.
“I think on my last lap I was very happy with the lap in general, I was maybe a bit greedy out of [Turn] 10 and maybe not greedy enough into Turn 6 but yeah, there wasn’t an awful lot to grab otherwise, as I said, very happy.
“I wanted to get below the 1m13s mark because then I knew it would be very close with the Mercedes. I did that but just by one hundredth so yeah, a little bit was missing but overall I think we have a great car, we did a step so I’m happy with how the weekend has turned out.
“We did a step or so overnight so I felt in general very comfortable and enjoyed qualifying a lot. Brushed the Wall of Champions - so done that, don’t have to do that tomorrow so we should be all set.”
But despite the progress, Ferrari still wants to see its qualifying form repeated in a hot race – which will come as early as Baku next week.
If it is strong again there, then the remainder of the campaign could be hugely encouraging for Maranello.