The final round of last season's F1 world championship held great promise for the Sahara Force India team as Nico Hulkenberg led in Brazil, and the Silverstone squad hopes to be able to continue in the same vein when 2013 kicks off in Australia this weekend.
Although Hulkenberg has jumped ship and headed to Sauber for this season, Force India's new VJM06 has looked solid in testing, where it ran in the hands of Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Jules Bianchi and James Rossiter. While Rossiter was never going to make the line-up – his role was to assimilate reality with the team's simulator – Bianchi saw his hopes of an F1 debut with the team dashed when it opted to bring Sutil back into the fold, but team owner Vijay Mallya is confident that he has got the right pairing to push on in the opening rounds.
“I am very happy about our driver line-up and I am particularly delighted to welcome Adrian back to the team,” he said, “Over the winter, we thought long and hard about the decision, but I'm sure we have made the right choice. Adrian and Paul make up the driver pairing that brought us to our best-ever championship result in 2011 and there is no reason why we can't have a similar result this year.
“Adrian is very quick and has a great history with the team - he has been with us from the very start and is truly part of the family. Everyone was impressed by his performance during winter testing in Barcelona, [where] he was able to deliver great pace right away.
“Paul, meanwhile, has matured into a very good driver and, in his third season with us, we are confident he will deliver the results his talent warrants. He has gelled with the team perfectly and, following a strong winter, he is well prepared for a great season.”
While not necessarily on a par with the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, Force India has enjoyed a productive pre-season period, and Mallya is optimistic that it can be among the point-scorers from the opening weekend.
“The VJM06 has shown excellent reliability in winter testing, the rules haven't changed much from 2012 and everyone in the team is confident we can pick up where we left off at the end of last season,” the Indian commented, “The first race of the season on a track like Melbourne is always a lottery so, if any of the front runners stumble, we will be ready to pounce.
“I'm really looking forward to the start of the season. We've picked up points in Melbourne for the past couple of seasons so that's a clear objective for this coming weekend. Last year we had some of our best performances on street circuits, so I'm optimistic we can perform well on the streets of Albert Park.”