Fernando Alonso said Ferrari had good cause to be pleased after missing out on pole position by just 0.002 seconds at the German Grand Prix.
The Spaniard did not try to hide his satisfaction after pushing Red Bull to the limit in qualifying at Hockenheim.
Alonso, who needs a good result to revive his title campaign, said: "We have been competitive all weekend, I'm very confident with the car.
"We were surprised to be that close and finally fighting for a pole position."
With team-mate Felipe Massa qualifying third, half a second behind Alonso and pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel, and ahead of the German's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, it was Ferrari's best qualifying result of the season so far.
It comes after a run of terrible luck for the double world champion at the last two races, when Ferrari have not been able to deliver on a major improvement in performance from their car.
He suffered from the intervention of the safety car in both races, and scored only four points in two races in which he should have been on the podium.
That has left him almost two clear wins behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren in the points table.
Nevertheless, Alonso said after the British Grand Prix two weeks ago that the performance of the car had made him more confident than ever that he could win the world championship - a message he repeated at Hockenheim this weekend.
Top three drivers - German Grand Prix qualifying
After coming so close to pole position, Alonso said he was pleased with another step forward in performance from his car.
"We always expect the Red Bulls in Q3 (final qualifying) to give something more," he said. "We saw many times this is very close in free practice but then in Q3 they are far away.
"So we were surprised to be that close and finally fighting for a pole position after 10 races. It took a bit longer but now we are very close.
"I think we have to be happy. We are in the first row for the first time this season so that is definitely a step forward for us. I was very happy with the car in Q1, Q2 and Q3.
Domenicali pleads for Ferrari calm
"Obviously we lost pole position by a small margin, but the points are tomorrow not Saturday so we need to stay focused for tomorrow.
"The target is a good day tomorrow after a good day today. We'll try to score good points tomorrow."
Ferrari have brought a new front wing to Germany, which is designed to work in tandem with the exhaust-blown diffuser they introduced at the European Grand Prix in Valencia a month ago.
Massa, who was nearly half a second slower than Alonso, said it was a good team performance in what he described as a "tough" qualifying session.
The Brazilian said: "In Q3 I could not put all the sectors together, but I am more focused for the race tomorrow. I hope we can do a good job and score many points for the team and myself."
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