Adrian Sutil outshone the likes of Lewis Hamilton to lap ninth quickest in both the practice sessions for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix as Force India's new car promised a turnaround in the fortune of the Vijay Mallya-owned outfit.
The Silverstone-based outfit could not have asked for a better start to its 2009 Formula One campaign as Sutil's VJM02 posted a lap of 1:27.993s in the first session which was better than the likes of Renault's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Hamilton.
Sutil returned for another ninth place finish in the second segment and his 1:27.040 was better than, among others, the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton.
Sutil's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella finished 14th among 20 drivers in the morning session before moving up a place in the afternoon at the Albert Park track.
The outcome lifted Force India's spirits but Mallya felt a celebration was premature. Instead, he was looking forward to see if the car makes the second qualifying session tomorrow.
"This is a car which was built in 120 days and had just eight days' practice. The signs are good but I'm not going to make any prediction. We are yet to learn about the car but I think Q2 should happen tomorrow," Mallya told PTI.
"More than anything else, I think today the car showed its true potentials," he added.
Sutil, on his part, was highly pleased but he too shied away from promising anything.
"I hope this is representative of where we are, but it is still very early on in the weekend," he said.
"We had a good session in the afternoon and could do some quite promising runs. I was pleased with the car, we had no real problems.
"In the second session we did some race runs and struggled a lot with the softer tyre, but I think once the track rubbers in the tyres will grip better. Overall it was OK and a good position in the end. I think we can be happy with where we are right now," added the German.
Fisichella wasn't too unhappy either even though the Italian said he was not fully comfortable with the car yet.
"The car is better under high speed but so far I am struggling with the rear locking and I'm not 100 per cent comfortable just yet," Fisichella said.
"We're in better shape than last year for sure though. We will see tomorrow but at least we know there is potential to improve overnight," added the Roman with more than 200-plus races under his belt.
Chief Operating Officer Simon Roberts too was pleased with the result and said, "It's been a promising start to the weekend today. I've been really pleased with the team and the overall performance.
"We managed to get everything we needed to complete and apart from a couple of niggles in the first session - really just early season teething problems - it was a good team showing," Roberts said.
Williams' Nico Rosberg dominated the first day's practice lapping quickest in both of the afternoon sessions, while Hamilton proved the slowest on Mercedes engines.