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Force India chasing regular points after empty 2008

March 01, 2009 18:47 IST

Force India gave their new Mercedes-powered Formula One car its debut in Spain on Sunday with team owner Vijay Mallya targeting regular points after a barren 2008.

The new car has a Mercedes engine and McLaren gearbox after the Silverstone-based team announced in November it was terminating a previous deal with Ferrari.

"I would like to see a strong start, rising to points mid-season and a definite improvement in qualifying. Regular points finishes should be the aim," he said in a team statement.

"This is the year we have to deliver. We are not here to make up the numbers, I want to be pushing all the way," he added.

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, now in his 14th season in Formula One, drove the first laps in the VJM02 at the Jerez circuit.

Fisichella and German team mate Adrian Sutil failed to score a point last year and Mallya expected the new partnership with McLaren-Mercedes, who won the drivers' title with Lewis Hamilton, to show a marked improvement.

"To be brutally honest, I would not be happy if we didn't show some much improved, and much needed, performance this season," he said, adding that McLaren's success would provide a real benchmark for his team.

Due to the late change in engine supplier, Force India are one of the last teams to run their 2009 car and Sunday's test was almost 100 days since Fisichella had last been behind the wheel.


Fisichella was confident the new car would deliver, particularly with the most significant rule changes the sport has seen in decades.

"It would be good to see all the teams mixed up and to be able to fight for points," said the former race winner with Jordan and Renault. "If the car is good, why not even for the podium?"

Fisichella is one of the few drivers to have raced previously in Formula One on slick tyres, in 1997, but the Roman said that would not give much of an advantage.

"In the 12 years since then the cars and the tyres have evolved so much you can't really compare the two periods," he said.

More of a disadvantage was the comparative lack of testing, with some of Force India's rivals -- with the exception of Honda and Toro Rosso -- out on track with their new cars from early January.

"It's important to drive as much as you can before the start of the year to get a feeling with the car and try and establish a good set-up," said Fisichella.

"It's not easy in just four days, especially with the new rules coming in this year. We are just going to have to try and get as much as we can from these eight days before the season."

The season starts in Australia on March 29.

Alan Baldwin
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