Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley insists that there are any number of drivers currently on the F1 grid who could win the world title given the right machinery.
The Briton includes his present line-up in that list, claiming that Paul di Resta would certainly be a title contender given the opportunity to prove himself in a front-running car. di Resta, who narrowly missed out on a maiden podium at the recent Bahrain Grand Prix, was being mentioned in the same breath as potential vacancies at Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren towards the end of last season, before being passed over and finding himself back at Force India for a third term.
Despite the frustration at not being able to move himself up the grid – although, given the state of this year's McLaren, not every option would have turned out to be better than his current lot – Fernley believes that di Resta is more at peace with himself than in either of his first two years as an F1 driver.
"I think Paul is always a happy guy,” he told Sky Sports
, “He is very, very demanding on himself and equally on the team and that is why he is there - we expect that to happen. But I think he is now relaxed and probably a bit more at ease with himself with it being his third year in F1 and he is starting to settle in and deliver."
Despite being reunited with former team-mate Adrian Sutil, who continues to provide a challenge as strong as Nico Hulkenberg brought in 2012, di Resta's Bahrain result allows him to hold the upper hand in terms of championship position, and Fernley believes that the Scot has responded positively to the decision not to go with an untried rookie such as Jules Bianchi.
"The idea of bringing Adrian in was that it would be as seamless as possible as to what had been happening between Paul and Nico and 2011, when Paul and Adrian were fighting each other,” he explained, “What we wanted to do was keep the pressure on Paul actually, because each driver needs to be performing at their limit. They need to give us quite a tough time and we have to set it up that they are having a tough time."
Given his performances since arriving in the top flight as DTM champion, Fernley maintains that the Scot would be a force to reckon with in a frontrunning car.
"Absolutely, you have to look at it and say probably at least 50 per cent of the drivers on the grid today, given the right car and package, would be a world champion," he said, no doubt casting an envious eye at the teams further up the pecking order, “There is no reason why he and a number of others would not have [been world champion already in a team like Red Bull]."
With McLaren struggling, Sauber not being the factor many expected and Williams struggling to build on its 2012 improvement, Force India has established itself as the biggest threat to the top four teams so far this season, but Fernley accepts that that may not last forever.
“McLaren will come back very, very hard and it will be difficult for Force India to resist their impact and their resources," he acknowledged, "I would probably be satisfied with making sure we get sixth place back, but I think there is a chance of fifth, and I know our beloved leader would love to be fifth, so I will amend [the aim] halfway through the season if that is the opportunity.”