Tail-enders Force India could be Formula One's surprise package this season with the help of McLaren and Mercedes, former driver David Coulthard said on Monday.
The Scot, who retired last year and now serves as a consultant for Red Bull and a pundit for BBC television, told Reuters he expected to see considerable improvement from the Silverstone-based team.
"Force India could be the shock of the season," the former McLaren driver said at the launch of Red Bull's new RB5 car at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.
Force India had Ferrari engines last year, when they failed to score a point, but have since agreed a five-year deal with McLaren and Mercedes to use their engines and gearbox as well as the new KERS energy recovery system.
They will also use McLaren's network of suppliers while Simon Roberts has joined as chief operations officer from McLaren.
On the downside, Force India have yet to reveal their 2009 car and drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil will have little testing time before the season starts in Australia on March 29.
Coulthard expected McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton to go from strength to strength, despite likely increased pressure on the 24-year-old Briton.
"He is two years in Formula One and an amazing first two seasons, just dripping in world class performance," he said.
"With the benefit of hindsight it was great he didn't win it (the title) in the first year because it just made the second year all that more special.
"I think he's just a class act and he will handle it in his own way...I think he will always manage to be quite controlled and is the (Michael) Schumacher of the modern era, he is now the benchmark against which everyone has to be measured."