Carlos Sainz says that McLaren's decision to sacrifice development on its 2018 car midway through the season is paying off in 2019.
The Woking squad got both of its cars inside the top ten for the start of tomorrow's race, with Sainz beating teammate Lando Norris.
McLaren's apparent turnaround will encourage the team, who ended the 2018 season as near backmarkers, frequently failing to make it out of the first stage of qualifying.
"We've found performance compared to last year," Sainz stated.
"A big part of this is thanks to the factory and also sacrificing the second half of last season, trying to understand the problems we had in the car meant it was a tough second half of the season.
"But we managed to understand things and put things together this year.
"To be within a second of the Ferrari, to be beating a Red Bul, nearly beating the other Red Bull, is a step in the right direction. Everyone in the factory can be proud of this, the fact that we had both cars in Q3."
Too early to judge 2019 potential
Sainz believes it is still too early to judge where McLaren lies in Formula 1's pecking order after an encouraging qualifying performance.
The Spaniard was happy with the pace but says that the car must run at some different circuits before it can judge its potential for the season ahead.
"I think it's too early to tell [where they are]. We still need to go to different tracks like Baku. China is a completely different track to this one and once we understand that, once we are four or five races in, we will know if we have a constant Q3 car.
"I believe in Australia we had a Q3 car thanks to Lando, I had some bad luck but today I say we can move forward."