- Force India
Mallya 'cautiously optimistic' for podiums
Vijay Mallya expects the Mercedes-powered cars to dominate the opening four races of the season, and admits he is "cautiously optimistic" of seeing Force India return to the podium in Melbourne.
Though unable to show the one-lap pace displayed by Williams and the Mercedes factory team over pre-season, Force India enters the season as a dark horse after completing an impressive mileage haul throughout the winter. Force India has not made the top three since its maiden podium at the 2009 Italian Grand Prix, but Mallya is relishing the prospect of the start of the new season.
"I don't want to test my luck, but certainly this year is the right year to be optimistic," Mallya told the official F1 website. "We are racing with the best and outperforming some of the best, which we haven't done before. If that's not a good sign and every reason to be optimistic…. Or let's put it this way: cautiously optimistic."
Mallya believes the opening races of the season will be a "luxury" for the Mercedes teams, while he thinks the likes of Red Bull and Lotus may struggle to catch up until as late as round five in Spain.
"The first four races present a great opportunity, particularly for the Mercedes-powered teams, because so far they are showing that they are ahead of the rest. But in the end it will be all about - here comes the word again - reliability. You can do many fancy things during testing, but a race is a race and the conditions of a race are very different. By the time we get back to Europe many teams will have sorted out their issues and some big upgrades will be coming from Barcelona onwards. So yes, my guess is that these four races will be a bit of a luxury for the Mercedes-powered teams - and once we get to Europe, that is where some serious racing will start."
But Mallya is not about to rest on his laurels despite the advantage he expects Force India and a handful of others to enjoy early on.
"Don't get me wrong, we are also planning some big updates for Europe. It definitely isn't as if we would plan nothing. As you mentioned earlier, since I took over we've step-by-step moved up the pecking order every year, and this year is different because of the huge technology change. But in previous years we were racing with the biggest and the best and still scoring points, so there might be an additional opportunity now for us in 2014."