Sergio Perez is hoping that Force India can continue to extract performance from its VJM09 over the summer as he fears that the team's expected opposition remains out of reach.
Perez does not believe that Force India has produced a bad car – indeed, quite the opposite, he believes the VJM09 is a improvement over the B-spec VJM08 with which it finished 2015 on a high – but with Toro Rosso and Williams appearing to have an edge, particularly on raceday, the next raft of developments can't come too soon for the Mexican.
According to Perez, the last major additions, which included a development front wing, made to the car in Barcelona provided another step forward, but he admits that he only made it into Sunday's top ten because of the incidents that befell others, notably both Mercedes and the improved McLaren of Fernando Alonso.
“The [new parts] delivered and I think we did a good step on the car in Barcelona,” he confirmed ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, “We are obviously still a way off Williams and Toro Rosso on race pace, but we learned a lot from that spec. Barcelona is probably our poorest track so I really want to see how we can do here [in Monaco] - we should be more competitive than we were there. If people hadn't got it wrong in Barcelona we wouldn't have got into the points on pure pace, so there is a lot to improve still, but we're confident we're heading in the right direction.
“We'll see what happens, but I have really high hopes that we can be competitive here. Last year, we had an amazing weekend with the A-spec car – we were out in Q1 in Barcelona and, coming here, we managed to get into Q3, have an excellent qualifying and really good race, so I am optimistic that we can be better than last year.”
A year ago, Force India was poised to introduce the B-spec version of the VJM08 that transformed its season and, while Perez is not expecting as big a transformation when the next update arrives, he is confident that there is more to come from the 2016 machine.
“Ferrari and Red Bull are quite far ahead and, at the moment, I don't see that [sort of] performance coming through,” he admitted, reflecting back to the 2015 season finale in Abu Dhabi, where he finished ahead of both the supposed giants, “However, if you look at last year, we seemed to be more competitive at this stage.
“[The car] looks quite similar but the way it operates, there are windows that are quite different. I think the car has made a good step forward, but we are having to run a little bit higher ride height and stuff like that that makes it a different car.
“I think our next big upgrade is coming for Silverstone, but I think that, with this package, we can live for a couple of races and make it into the points. What we are seeing from this car is not its best, and I think there is still a bit more potential to come. I think it is a better car [than last year], but the opposition have done good steps too.”