MONZA, Italy, Sept 07, 2013 (AFP) - Highly rated young German Nico Hulkenberg hopes his stunning drive to third on the grid for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix will boost his Formula One career prospects.
The 26-year-old Sauber driver produced the biggest surprise in a dramatic qualifying session with a late lap that saw him finish with the fastest time by any driver powered by a Ferrari engine.
He said: "I can only influence the future by performing very well and today's result is not the worst.
"For me it is important to focus on my competitiveness, on my performance and that will make the rest easier. Probably the timing is not the worst at this moment!"
Hulkenberg has been consistently linked with a possible move to Ferrari for 2014 as a replacement for Brazilian Felipe Massa, who is struggling to recover from a poor run.
On Saturday, Massa shone as he outpaced Ferrari team-mate Spaniard Fernando Alonso by taking fourth on the grid ahead of the two-time champion.
Hulkenberg has been widely reported as not taking up his option to stay with Sauber next season.
He admitted the result surprised him as he had not previously qualified higher than ninth on the grid.
"It is a nice surprise for ourselves, especially after a difficult Friday, with the car changed with some bits and bobs," he said.
"The guys did a great job to give me a competitive car today and I had a good lap which made this surprise happen."
His Sauber team chief Monisha Kaltenborn said: "We couldn't believe it ourselves. This is fantastic.
"Nico said it himself, it was the perfect lap. I think he did a great job. It's very important because it gives us the boost we need. We have to keep in mind this is just qualifying. I hope we can take this forward and get a good result tomorrow."