Nico Hulkenberg says the Force India VJM09 represents a 'good direction' over its predecessor as he marked his first appearance of the F1 pre-season by topping the timesheets at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Made to wait until Wednesday to get his first taste of the Mercedes-powered car, Hulkenberg quickly found his comfort zone to lead the way from the second hour, a position he would maintain until the closing stages of the day when a rapid super-soft 1min 23.110secs lap put him further ahead.

A positive start to the year for the German, though Hulkenberg says there is work to be done to the VJM09 between now and Melbourne, he feels it has developed in the right direction.

"It's always difficult to compare after a couple of months when tyres change and some small bits change, but it does feel good, it does feel the right direction.

"I think a good positive day, good impressions. We probably tested our package out a bit more than the competition today, but it's not that much time till Melbourne, so we've got to get started and learn about the car.

"If you look where we finished last year, we were pretty decent. You know we can't stop working - we need to keep improving, working hard. We haven't done even one race yet and we don't know really where we're going to be, but so far, so good."