Adrian Sutil has cautioned against any Formula One team making massive gains from upgrades due to be introduced at the first of the 2010 season's European rounds, despite claims to the contrary.
While newcomer Lotus has been the most forthright in its expectations for Barcelona, with both Heikki Kovalainen
and designer Mike Gascoyne forecasting an improvement of anything up to a full second, Force India
driver Sutil insists that the field is too closely packed for any team to steal a march on its rivals from the short development period since the start of the season.
"We've got a few bits, and the car will be very good there, but the top ten will be very similar to what we've seen in the last few races," the young German insisted, "Nobody will be finding half a second in their car because, right now, it's really hard to improve the cars. Everybody is at a point where it's hard to find every single tenth."
Confirming Force India's rise from also-ran to regular points contender, which began with former team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella's pole and second place in last year's Belgian Grand Prix
- Sutil has qualified in the top ten at every race this season, but has only scored points on one occasion, with fifth place in Malaysia. Despite the frustration at seeing potential scoring opportunities go begging in both Bahrain, where he collected Renault's Robert Kubica
in a smoke cloud at the start, and China, where confusion over the weather saw him make three stops to change tyres, he remains positive.
"Probably Melbourne was a big chance," he said, picking the remaining race as perhaps his biggest failing, "Bahrain, I'm not sure - I started tenth and maybe I could have finished eighth, but it didn't happen. The only big chance we missed I think was Melbourne [where an ECU problem sidelined the #14 machine]."
Despite his claims, however, Sutil knows that a braver call in the opening laps of the Chinese Grand Prix
could have paid bigger dividends that the eventual eleventh place he took.
"On the first lap on the dry tyres behind the safety car, I was sure that the rain would pick up, and that's why I changed to intermediates," he explained, "I thought it was the right decision, and it looked like it was, but then it stopped raining again, and it was just too dry. The tyres grained up and we had to pit again. I was just hoping for more rain, but it wasn't coming!
"We changed back to the slick tyres, and chose the soft [option], because normally, in those conditions, the hard one is not working at all. But even that was probably not the best decision because my left front grained up so much that I had to pit another time. Luckily, it was raining then, and I went on to intermediates, but even they degraded quite quickly.
"It was just a bit up and down with the positions, with some quite good fights there. There was a small problem with the rear left at the pit-stop, and I lost four seconds and positions to [Felipe] Massa and [Rubens] Barrichello, and I just missed the points.
"That was a strategy race. If you see that people were doing four or five pit-stops, it was just about doing the right thing at the right time, and also a little bit of luck. Some people just tried something and it worked out. I'm not really disappointed, I did everything on the limit. From my point of view, I got the maximum out of the car, and the team did their best."