Nico Hulkenberg says the opening race weekend of the 2014 season "can hold a lot of surprises" for the teams.

Force India finished winter testing as one of the front-running teams, with deputy team principal Bob Fernley telling Crash.net exclusively that he expects to be able to challenge for podiums this year. However, Hulkenberg believes the team can't set any goals for the first race despite being pleased by how well prepared it is.

"I'm not nervous, quite relaxed in general," Hulkenberg said. "I think we can be fairly confident; winter testing has gone fairly smoothly for us if I compare it to some other teams so from that point of view I think we are as well prepared as we can be. It's still going to be challenging, this weekend can hold a lot of surprises. We can talk a lot in theory but we just have to get going now, start the season and see what happens really."

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While Williams and Mercedes topped the times late in the final test, Hulkenberg said he feels Force India is still competitive in qualifying trim after Sergio Perez was fastest on the opening two days.

Asked if he felt the team was stronger on race pace than qualifying, he replied: "I'm not sure on that.

"I didn't get a proper go on a one-lap attempt but I think the car felt fairly OK for that, also in terms of balance. So I think there's no big issue but we've seen that there are some fast cars out there and where we fit in there I'm not quite sure."

And despite impressive reliability as the winter tests went on, Hulkenberg said no team can bank on having a reliable car in Melbourne.

"Winter testing was pretty solid, especially the second Bahrain test. We've been pretty strong and OK from that point of view but that doesn't mean we're immune to it and nothing happens over the next couple of days."