Sahara Force India F1 team boss Dr. Vijay Mallya has said his team will be gunning for fifth place in the constructors' championship this season.
The Silverstone-based outfit took sixth last year, ending the season with 69 points on the board, just 4 less than Lotus Renault GP. Speaking following the launch of the VJM05 today, the squad's 2012 F1 challenger, he was adamant that fifth is an attainable target.
“We have set our sights on challenging for fifth place. To do so we will need to begin the new campaign by delivering the kind of form we showed in the second half of 2011. I believe this is a realistic goal and that we have the talent and determination to realise these ambitions,” Mallya confirmed.
Otmar Szafnauer, Force India's chief operating officer, meanwhile echoed those sentiments. He also praised the team's efforts over the winter in developing the VJM05.
“The car has come together nicely over the winter,” he continued. “It's all about how much we have developed under the new regulations versus what the others have done, which will be difficult to judge until the first race. But from our perspective we've made some gains over the winter and believe we're in reasonable shape. Our objective is to start our season strongly, and continue our development.”
Pressed on how tough it will be to take fifth, Szafnauer, conceded it won't be easy: “I think it's going to be very difficult. But nevertheless, our aim is fifth place,” he stated.
“I think Sauber started last season very competitively and towards the end they didn't develop their blown diffuser, which hurt them. However it will help them for this year, because the developments that they were uncovering still apply. They have two fast drivers, a good powertrain, they are a team with a lot of experience, and they have a good infrastructure, so they are not going to be easy to beat.
“Lotus were a bit constrained with the blown floor concept they had, and this year they won't have that, so they are going to be competitive. Williams have a new engine in Renault, they've got a new technical team, and they've got a lot of experience. Toro Rosso made some huge strides last year. They've got some new drivers, and while that is perhaps still an unknown, you usually make changes with the intention of improving! So it will be very competitive in the realm of the midfield that we are competing in.
“However we have continuity in our senior employees and management, we have continuity in our powertrain – Mercedes do a great job on the engine and KERS. We've got two good drivers again [in Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg]. We're starting to understand the tyres a bit more. All things considered, it will be tough, but I think we will be competitive.
“Where will we finish? It's difficult to predict. But our goal is fifth, and I think we will be competing for that,” he emphasised.
TO SEE PICTURES FROM THE LAUNCH OF THE SAHARA FORCE INDIA VJM05, CLICK HERE
More images will be added over the course of the day.