Paul di Resta is gearing up for a tougher second season in F1, but not just because he faces increased competition from within the Force India team.
The Scot, who was preferred to veteran Adrian Sutil when it came to the team looking to make room for Nico Hulkenberg to step up from reserve, has predicted that the battle to best of the rest and fill the final top five spot in the end of season standings is going to be closer than ever in 2012, with Sauber, Toro Rosso and a recovering Williams also expected to be challenging Lotus and Mercedes for the positions behind F1's established 'big three' of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.
Last year saw Force India come close to toppling the then Lotus Renault team after their respective seasons moved in opposite directions over the final few races, but the Silverstone-based operation also came under pressure from its Swiss and Italian rivals over the last couple of rounds.
"I do believe it will be more bunched up, and everybody will need to raise their game," di Resta told Sky Sports
, "What we will see is that, if someone is having a very good weekend, there will be a bigger benefit [than 2011] and, if someone is having a bad weekend, they will be in more trouble. It has been a difficult year to read in testing. We will see where we are [in qualifying on] Saturday afternoon, but it looks a lot tighter, so it is crucial to get everything right."
The Scot has been sufficiently encouraged by pre-season testing to believe that Force India has a chance to challenge for fifth in the constructors' standings, which was the team's avowed measure of success for 2012, and knows that he has already prepared better than ever before on a personal level.
"As a team, I feel we've massively moved on, and you can see the difference from that from the experiences we had from the mid- season on last year," the 25-year old noted, "As long as you're moving up, that's the focus and mentality we are going with, like Force India that has grown every year, and now we're trying to expand another step.
"Personally, it's about being more confident and consistent. You grow into a position you are in. [Personal] success would be if I can grow as a person, be more consistent. That is obviously what relaxes you when you are a rookie because you are a bit uncertain with the whole system and how it works.
"My emotions this year are completely different compared to last - I'm certainly more focused on the performance side, whereas last year was a bit of a learning curve. I'm also more relaxed, a lot fitter, a lot stronger mentally and more stable in life. Hopefully, that side of things can transfer on to the track, but it doesn't get any easier."