Despite achieving its best-ever F1 performance in the 2010 world championship, there was still an air of frustration at Force India when the campaign came to a close in Abu Dhabi.

The Silverstone team, still viewed as a minnow by many, had been in the thick of the fight for sixth overall, and with comparative veteran Williams at that, only to falter over the final hurdles and let its rival in at the last. That it even considered itself worthy of the position, however, shows just how much progress has been made under Vijay Mallya's rule, and the forthcoming season will again be one where Force India looks to move forward.

The team's new challenger, the Mercedes-powered VJM04, will look to build on the foundations laid over the past two seasons, using the pole positions and podium results of 2009 in tandem with the all-round improvement of last year to hopefully overhaul the likes of Williams, although technical director Andrew Green has already admitted that there can be no repeat of the drop-off in performance that was evident in 2010 [see separate story - click here].

Changes have been made to the car's basic specification - necessitated as much by the multitude of rule changes as the results of 2010 - and to the drivers that will drive it, with former reserve - and reigning DTM champion - Paul di Resta being promoted to partner Force India stalwart Adrian Sutil, while former Williams racer Nico Hulkenberg settles in for a year of development work as the official reserve. Gone is Tonio Liuzzi, with bad luck in 2010 preventing the Italian from matching Sutil's results, despite several strong performances.

"2010 was an exceptional year for the team - 68 points overall, and seventh in the championship with only teams who had previously won world titles ahead of us - and demonstrated that we are still on target to achieve our goals," chairman and CEO Mallya commented, "But, this year, there is even more to be optimistic about.

"We've got three race drivers that are hungry to take the next steps in their careers, whether that be points, podiums or wins. We have an experienced technical team that have the ingenuity, flexibility and drive to adapt to the new wave of rule changes, and we also have the tools and resources in our partnerships with McLaren Applied Technologies and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines to aim even higher."

Sutil heads into his fourth campaign with the team, having finished eleventh overall last year, and fully believes that Force India can maintain the sort of momentum that has seen him become a solid midfield runner and regular points-scorer.

"I'm genuinely excited about the 2011 season," insists the German, who openly coveted the possibility of a move to Renault or Mercedes over the winter, "I just missed out on the top ten last year in the drivers' standings, and I'm pretty hopeful I can get in there this season!

"The progress the team has shown over the past two years has been very impressive and what I've seen in the factory and at the wind tunnel over the past weeks indicates that the rate will continue this year. The team and I know each other very well and we know how to get the most from each other, so I feel very good - and confident."

Having finally made the jump from reserve to full-time race driver, as was mooted for much of the 2010 campaign, di Resta knows that he will face an altogether different type of pressure this season. As such, he is reticent to set himself lofty goals, but will be determined to get as close to Sutil as he can as the year wears on.

"I don't want to say exact targets on record, as there are so many factors that can come into play, but what I do want to do is to have a positive approach, finish, be consistent and contribute strongly to the team's overall performance," the Scot revealed, "We've got high aims of finishing in a good constructors' championship position and I know that I've got to play my part in this."

For Mallya, meanwhile, there is one aspect of the 2011 season that will rate as high on the scale of importance as the performance of his team - and he'd love to see the two elements come together for at least one glorious weekend.

"There is the very special event, and one that I personally can't wait for, [that is] the inaugural Indian Grand Prix," he enthused, having backed the project from the off, "What better place would there be to reach some of [the team's] aims than on our home soil?"

TO SEE MORE PICTURES OF THE NEW VJM04, CLICK HERE

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