Sahara Force India team principal Vijay Mallya says he does not expect the winter break to have thrown the F1 pecking order into disarray - which means he is targeting immediate points for his drivers.
Having boosted its 2015 fortunes with the introduction of a B-spec VJM08, Force India has continued that theme with an evolutionary VJM09, and the car has already performed solidly in pre-season testing, sitting second on the 'adjusted' timesheets thanks to a rapid showing from Nico Hulkenberg in Barcelona. Mallya, however, is under no illusion that his squad is now a Ferrari-beater and Mercedes-worrier, and expects normal service to be resumed at round one of the 2016 season in Australia.
“I don't think there will be any major shocks in Melbourne," he confirmed, "The general status quo
from the second half of last year appears to have been maintained. I think it will vary from track to track, as always, but, on the whole, I think we can pick up where we ended last year.”
Force India, of course, finished fifth in the 2015 constructors' standings, coming out on top of a battle with Lotus (now Renault) and Toro Rosso, and ahead of more illustrious opposition in McLaren, and Mallya is confident that the Silverstone-based team can pick up where it left off after pre-season testing gave it a good base to build on.
“The introduction of the VJM09 has been very smooth," he reported, "The team has done an excellent job over the winter and testing has gone largely to plan. We've covered just shy of 4,000km and the car has shown good reliability. It means we can head to Melbourne feeling pretty comfortable with the work we've done and our understanding of the new car.
“Melbourne can always throw up some surprises and unpredictability, but I'd like to see us get some points and start the season as we mean to go on. We want to be qualifying and racing inside the top ten from race one.”