Nico Hulkenberg maintains Force India will have to wait until the later rounds before it is competitive, despite finishing a better-than-expected seventh in the Australian Grand Prix with the VJM08.

The German defied pre-race expectations by avoiding drama around him and capitalising on the car's seemingly impressive reliability to come home in a trouble-free seventh position, picking up six points for his efforts.

However, Hulkenberg was insistent that the result is skewed by the problems facing Force India's rivals and remains clear that the next race in Malaysia will be a struggle.

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"It was lucky because we gained many places by people dropping out and not being able to finish with the car, so reliability was our joker today and we played that card well. We didn't do any mistakes, had a good strategy and capitalised when others struggled or made mistakes.

"I don't think [the pace] was better than expected. I think rivals still are stronger. It was a positive day for us to have that result but you have got to put that in perspective.

"If anything Malaysia will be tougher. That circuit is very demanding on the aero, so knowing what we know now I expect a pretty tough weekend there."