Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes Mercedes and Williams “are looking exceptionally strong”.
The final pre-season test saw Felipe Massa set the fastest time on the penultimate day before Lewis Hamilton was just 0.020s slower on the final day. Speaking exclusively to Crash.net
, Fernley believes Force India will be able to challenge both teams in race trim but is slower over one lap.
Asked if it could be the lead non-works Mercedes team this season, Fernley replied: “I think Williams might have something to say about that!
“It would be very nice, but I think the important thing is that if we can be competing strongly with Williams and Mercedes. There's no reason why we shouldn't do.
“Mercedes are looking exceptionally strong and so are Williams at the moment; I don't think we have probably got quite their outright pace but I think the race will be a different issue.”
And Fernley explained that his confidence for Force India was based in the way it had progressed throughout pre-season.
“I think it's been a very productive three tests overall. We have done all of the things that we set out to do. Test one was basically getting software systems aligned and just ironing out any installation errors, which we did and got a decent run on the last day of that which ticked the box there.
“Test one in Bahrain was about getting some set-up work done and getting some basic distance runs in and [the last test] has been about some performance runs and race sims.
“I think we've ticked all the boxes. 100 laps per day for [the third test] has been quite an impressive process and credit to the team because that's not an easy thing to do.”