The Force India F1 team is more than capable of challenging right at the front and being competitive in the future, that's the view of chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne.

The Silverstone-based outfit has gone through a number of different incarnations in recent years and while Vijay Mallya's men have yet to open their account this season the squad has made progress.

Speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio recently Gascoyne added that the team is now a lot closer to the pace than it was twelve months ago.

"The team has come a long way," he emphasised. "It is unfortunate in Formula 1 at the moment that it is just incredibly competitive.

"We are the team at the back still but if you look at it we have closed up from being something like 3 seconds off the pace this time a year ago to now being 1.5 seconds off the pace, which in recent years would have been a good midfield performance. The frustration for us is that we are still at the back.

"I think the thing to remember though is that when we designed this car a year ago we were still Spyker and we had no budget. The team has come a long way since then as Force India and looking forward we can be very, very positive about the future."

Pressed on what the team might achieve in 2009 and beyond - and if they could step up in the same way the old Minardi team has since being re-branded Toro Rosso following the Red Bull take-over, Gascoyne added that such a turn-around is not out of the question.

"Clearly we need to move forward solidly into the midfield [in 2009]. We definitely need to be getting into Q2 and on the edge of Q3 on occasions - and we also need to be scoring points not just as one-offs but doing it on a more regular basis. I think that with where we are we can certainly achieve that.

"[Beyond that] we have got a programme to build the team up and get sensible investment. The Indian market is obviously a very interesting one and India has got a booming economy.

"I believe if we can continue to grow the team and attract the sponsorship, we can be competitive in the future."

So how are the preparations going for '09?

"Like a lot of the teams we have switched our focus now very firmly to 2009. We did that very early on in the wind tunnel because it is a real opportunity for us. As I say we have got vastly more resources to address to the 2009 car than we had in the past. Also with the rule changes it levels the playing field. We are well advanced with that," he concluded.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MIKE GASCOYNE: CLICK HERE