Nico Hulkenberg says he believes Force India can be in the hunt with Williams when the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship gets underway with the Australian Grand Prix as the team looks to better its fifth place in last year's constructors' standings.
Having endured a tumultuous build up to last year's opener when it didn't roll out its 2015 car until the final stages of testing, though Force India split time in the VJM09 between Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Alfonso Celis, feedback has been positive.
Indeed, Hulkenberg is setting his sights high for the opening round, suggesting Force India has the car to tackle Williams, which has finished third in the overall standings for the past two seasons.
“I'd like to think we can attack Williams and be on their level, if we can manage that it would be pretty good,” the Le Mans 24 Hours winner said. “From my feeling and what I've seen so far I think we will have a battle with Toro Rosso and Red Bull.”
Discussing the preparations for the season, Hulkenberg doesn't expect Force India to start lower than it ended last season, and adds that he sees 'good potential' in the VJM09 to continue developing.
“We feel as prepared as we can be. We've gone through our programme and we need to see where we pan out in Melbourne and the first couple of races.
“I have a feeling we'll be close or similar to where we finished at the end of last year so that is a good starting point. Later in the year I see good potential in the car because I know there is more in the pipeline.”