After a strong and consistent run of points finishes during the first half of the season, Force India's 2013 campaign came off the rails somewhat with two non-points races at Germany and Hungary going into the month-long mandatory summer lay-off for all F1 personnel in August.

It would be understandable if that had left a cloud hanging over the team and drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, but at Spa on Friday ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix both men seemed relaxed and confident - and happy to be back in the cockpit once more.

"It's been a fairly promising start for us with plenty of running for Adrian and Paul, especially in the afternoon session," said Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley. "The programmes went to plan, giving us plenty to think about."

Related Articles

"Quite an interesting day getting back in the car for the first time in almost a month," agreed Sutil. "We were near the top of the times this morning in the damp session, but I had some balance issues to solve with the car so we made quite a few adjustments for this afternoon.

"When the sun came out the track conditions were very different so we tried some different downforce levels and need to choose the best approach for [qualifying]. For the final few laps of the afternoon we made some progress and got the car closer to where we want it to be."

"It's safe to say that we seem to be further forward compared to where we were in Budapest and we always thought the car would be more suited to this track," said di Resta. "At the moment it looks like we are in the mix for making the top ten, but we need to carry a bit more speed into qualifying."

For both drivers and the team the focus is on their tight battle with McLaren in the constructors championship for what would be a valuable fifth place.

"Obviously we're going to battle as hard as we can," said the team's new technical director Andy Green. "The strategy at the moment is to extract as much as we can out of this car and take each race as it comes and try not to makes mistakes. That's one of the things we have been guilty of in a few races this season. We haven't really harvested the points we should have, we should be much further up. Now is the time to get our heads down and just not make mistakes, extract what we can, and not make mistakes and see where we end up."

Competing neck-and-neck with McLaren does make it more difficult for Force India to decide how to balance continuing development on the current car while ensuring that it doesn't fall behind on the 2014 model in the process, Green admitted on Friday.

"It is a difficult balance. I would say the point at which they have more points - they are further ahead than us there are points to score - then that's obviously over," he said. "We'll keep pushing as hard as we can with what we've got, but we have to keep an eye on next year, there's no two ways about it. It's too big a challenge not for us to have one eye over there.

"McLaren are a huge, huge team, a championship-winning team and I don't expect they thought they'd be racing with us at the start of the season," he added. "They're a huge team with huge resources and can carry on developing two cars simultaneously. We're a much smaller outfit; it's not something we can do. Our focus really has to be on next year, otherwise we won't have a car next year, it's as simple as that."

Green added that being a smaller team meant that it was "an even bigger challenge. There are lots of things we'd like to do. Lots of experiments we'd like to do, lots of information we'd like to take before we make some key decisions and we can't do them all. It's as simple as that. We have to make some best guesses and we don't really want to be. It's a difficult place to be in and it can be very frustrating but it's a challenge and we'll see where we end up.

"I'm pretty sure they [McLaren] probably didn't set themselves the target of fifth in the championship when they started the year. So we'll do what we can. We know it's going to be difficult, we'll take each race as it comes. There will be no step [down.]"