David Coulthard has predicted that Force India could be 'the shock of the season' in Formula 1 in 2009 - even if the team will approach the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne with just eight days' testing under its belt.

The new VJM02 is not due to be launched until the end of February, meaning it will not take to the track until early March - barely three weeks before the F1 circus heads Down Under for the competitive action to begin.

The delay has been prompted by the late switch last year from Ferrari powerplants to a five-year engine-supply and technical and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) tie-up with McLaren-Mercedes, necessitating a considerable re-design of the new car - and meaning the Silverstone-based squad has had to sit out all pre-season testing thus far since Barcelona back in November.

Nonetheless, recently-retired Red Bull Racing star and soon-to-be BBC F1 pundit Coulthard believes it is the link with McLaren that could just vault the habitual back-markers up the grid this year, with the Scot telling international news agency Reuters: "Force India could be the shock of the season."

The former Midland F1 and Spyker minnows failed to score so much as a single point in 2008, but Adrian Sutil is confident that - with the sweeping regulation changes that have been brought into force and the extra boost of the appointment of McLaren man Simon Roberts as chief operations officer - both he and experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella will be able to battle considerably higher up the order in 2009.

"It looks really good," the young German enthused to Mallorca Magazin on the subject of the new challenger, whilst on a training vacation on the Spanish island. "We are working to have the car ready for the end of February.

"Giancarlo will do four [days' testing], and I [will do] the other four. If I can show good results now, then at the end of the year I can hopefully secure a good cockpit, or stay for another year with Force India."

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