Lewis Hamilton said he was relieved to be as high as third in Valencia qualifying as he expected McLaren would be overtaken by teams bringing larger upgrades this weekend.
While McLaren's next major update - including its blown diffuser exhaust set-up - will not appear until the next round in Britain, Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari have all introduced their revised exhaust systems for Valencia.
But Hamilton still managed a second row start behind the Red Bulls.
"I am really happy to be here, I feel so fortunate this weekend," he said. "We knew everyone else would be bringing updates and we saw from practice we were quite some way behind, so I was a little bit cautious [in expectations], pushed to the limit, and didn't realise we would be so far up."
He was even more surprised considering he had made a costly error on his last Q3 run.
"On the second lap I was up in the second sector but locked up rears in Turn 12 and did it later in the lap," said Hamilton. "I thought for sure I was going to drop back but was surprised when I came back and was third."
The Briton still thinks the race is wide open even though a less eventful grand prix than Canada is anticipated.
"I think definitely it is going to be an interesting race tomorrow," he said. "How we manage the tyres and hopefully they will behave better than the last race.
"I can't complain about where we start from. The stops will be crucial and obviously the first corner, the first few laps will be crucial for positions. We will push as hard as we can to win."