Racing Point chief Otmar Szafnauer says the “new identity” of the Silverstone-based squad means a year of change but won’t use it as an excuse to lower its targets ahead of the 2019 Formula 1 season.

Racing Point, which formerly ran under the Force India name before a Lawrence Stroll-led consortium takeover last August, sees 2019 as the start of a new era at the team with extensive expansion and development planned both in the team and its headquarters next to Silverstone.

The team had already confirmed a significant upgrade package would arrive in time for the season opener this weekend in Australia, meaning it ran a conservative programme at pre-season testing, but CEO and team principal Szafnauer is adamant it won’t dampen its 2019 aims.

“We begin 2019 with a new identity and new energy,” Szafnauer said. “There’s fresh investment, too, with new partners joining us, but it takes time for this investment to be translated into performance on the track. A big part of the RP19 was designed before the new shareholders acquired the team so this is very much a year of transition.

“The aim this year is to take a step forward and compete at the front of the midfield once again. We recognise this won’t be an easy task because it’s shaping up to be one of the closest midfields we have seen for a long time – with just a few tenths separating a handful of teams.”

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Szafnauer is expecting a tough learning lesson with its upgrades at the Australian Grand Prix given the limited track preparation time available in practice and wants Racing Point to be “realistic” over the opening races of the 21-round season.

“Winter testing saw us achieve our main objectives and we took away a lot of positives, but the car you will see in Melbourne is quite different from the car we ran in Barcelona,” he said. “We took the strategic decision to give ourselves the maximum time to develop the car, to maximise our performance at the first race, and that meant holding back a little during testing.

“It’s not easy introducing new parts late in the day and we know it will be a steep learning curve, but we believe this approach will pay off in the long run.

“We are realistic about the challenge ahead of us and the amount of work needed to achieve our objectives. It’s a long season and we have a solid development plan in place. I’d like to think we can be fighting for points in Melbourne and that’s certainly the first objective heading into the first race weekend.”