Team principal Vijay Mallya has said he feels Force India's 2012 F1 challenge is the 'best engineering car we have produced' as the Silverstone-based squad prepares to kick-start its 2012 campaign in Melbourne this weekend.
Force India go into the new season on the back of a highly-encouraging 2011, where it finished sixth in the constructors championship.
With Paul di Resta joined by Nico Hulkenberg in a youthful driver, but quick, line-up Force India will hope to maintain the form it showed in 2011 when the season gets underway and Mallya said he felt continued progress could be made during the year ahead.
“Our testing form has looked competitive, but it's only when we get to the first race that we really get a feel for the pecking order and how well everyone has done over the winter,” he said. “From our side there is no doubt that Andrew Green and his technical team have done an outstanding job to deliver a well-balanced car. I would even go as far as saying the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced and the detail of the design is beautiful. It's a car we believe can help us take another step forward.
“Driver-wise I'm extremely excited by our line-up this year. Nico and Paul are both young and hungry, and will ensure we squeeze every last thousandth from the car. There will be some healthy in-house rivalry, too, which will be fascinating to watch, and I believe that we will get better results in the long run by having two drivers pushing each other on.
“As for expectations, I remain cautious on making predictions, simply because there are so many unknowns. Our analysis suggests that we could see one of the closest grids in years, especially in the upper part of the midfield. Even so, our stated goal remains the same – to see Sahara Force India continue progressing and challenge the established teams that lie ahead of us.”
On the driver front, di Resta agreed with his team boss that it was difficult to tell the true pecking order until the cars hit the track at Albert Park but said his aim for the year ahead was simple.
“All the teams around us look strong and have been consistent in testing, so we just have to wait and see,” he said. “Also, I think almost every team will have some new parts on their cars so it really is too early to make any judgements. To begin with our goal is simply to try and pick up points at every race.
“The build-up to Melbourne has been a while coming, but at the same time it doesn't feel like there's been that much testing. In fact, compared to last year, there has been one less test, but it's been a good winter for us in general.”