The Australian has endured a rocky start to the 2023 season but felt he turned a corner in Monaco last weekend.
That was reinforced in Qualifying on Friday in Spain as the Australian topped the session for a time, a performance akin to those which saw him net three race wins last year.
While pleased to be towards the front of the grid once more, Doohan was frustrated to have missed out on pole position for Sunday's Feature race.
“It was really good in the first run,” he said.
“The car felt good in the first run, so I wanted to continue that with the second run.
“With the bit of track evo[lution] and that bit of cloud cover as well for that latter part of the session, with the track temperatures dropping a couple degrees, unfortunately for the last sector, it just wasn't the same as the first run.
“I was trying to repeat that [first lap], if not try and get a little bit more, and I lost quite a lot of time in the last few corners compared to that first run.
“No ifs buts or maybes, pole was there and the potential was very, very there, but unfortunately we're P3.”
Doohan held a strong position at the top of the timesheets after his opening lap, before Prema and MP Motorsport sent its drivers out for a run midway Qualifying.
There are typically two strategies teams employ for qualifying in Formula 2.
The most common strategy is to head out early to bank a lap before waiting until the final moments for a second run.
The other approach is to wait out the opening minutes and run in the middle of the session when there is less traffic, before a quicker turnaround to be on the circuit in the final moments when track conditions are, theoretically, at their best.
A less common option is to front-load the session; running at the start and again in the lull in the middle.
Doohan's team opted for the former, with the Aussie keen to run again soon after.
He was unable to do that, and dropped down the order as others completed laps as he sat in the pits, though he was able to improve on his best in the latter minutes of the session.
“Iit was better just to get a lap on the board first off and not have a red flag, or not have something happen that could potentially put our session at risk,” Doohan explained.
“So we went together with everybody to start.
“First run, I think we were four tenths clear before MP went out and did their second run, so our pace was clearly very strong.
“Then our plan got a little bit compromised due to cars – a lot of people actually did their second runs at various points in the latter stage of that session, which put us a little bit out of sync.
“But in the end I think we had a really good track position, we were last crossing the line, so if you take track evo[lution] into the equation, we had the best possible position, but unfortunately it just didn't come together.
“With such small margins, we're P3.”
Oliver Bearman will start Sunday's race from pole, his best 0.077s faster than Enzo Fittipaldi with Doohan 0.110s off top spot.