Force India F1 owner Dr Vijay Mallya was sufficiently impressed with his team's step forward at the Nurburgring to suggest that Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella will be fixtures in the second phase of qualifying for the remainder of the season.

Speaking in the build-up to this weekend's Hungarian round, Mallya recalled pre-season claims that Force India would gain strength as the campaign progressed and said that the technical upgrade fitted to the VJM02 in Germany could be the turning point that sees his squad threaten for points in the remaining eight races. Sutil achieved the team's highest-ever qualifying position, having made it into the final phase of qualifying for the first time, and Fisichella finished within seconds of the last point-scoring place, prompting Mallya to be confident that Hungary might finally see the team open its account.

"I genuinely think that we are Q2 contenders for the rest of the season and, with Hungary being a circuit where qualifying is so crucial, we're in with a shot of a good finish," he insisted, "We're so close to points we can almost touch them. It has to be soon.

"I am confident that Germany was not just a one-hit wonder for us. We always said that the first few races would be compromised by the late signing of the McLaren and Mercedes deal but, since then, we've been introducing new upgrades and each one has been a step forward. We had hoped that this progress would be reflected at Silverstone but, due to events on track, we couldn't show the full potential. In Germany, this is what you saw."

While cynics have suggested that Sutil got lucky with the weather in making it to the top ten shoot-out at the Nurburgring, Mallya insists that the team has genuinely improved enough to be in with a shot of making the top half of the grid.

"Over the course of the season so far, we've calculated we've improved by something like 1.7 seconds, which I don't think any other team has done - and it's been done by solid hard work and not just getting lucky," he maintained, "Everyone else had the same opportunities to make those calls [in German GP qualifying], and Adrian had a superb qualifying - as we saw in Q3, even on a very heavy fuel load, he was one of the quicker cars.

"In the dry race, both Giancarlo and Adrian were able to lap quickly and keep pace at various times with the Ferraris, Renaults and McLarens, so we're not just competitive in the wet, we're genuinely on the pace now."

As in Monaco 2008, however, there was to be no happy ending for Sutil but, despite the German being taken out of his home race, Mallya remained encouraged by the team's all-round performance.

"In that split second when Kimi [Raikkonen] and Adrian came together, of course the whole team was disappointed - and, of course, those memories of Monaco 2008 came forward," he admitted, "All the same, I don't think we can be downhearted about the weekend performance and dwell too much on that point. We qualified in the top ten, we raced in the top five and we went some way to shirking off this reputation of being the backmarkers who only get seen while being lapped."

Force India will have another couple of developments on its cars in Hungary this weekend, including some tweaks to the front wing and brake ducts, and some minor changes on the mechanical side. The only other modifications are a couple of measures to address the likely cooling demands of the Hungaroring.