Nico Hulkenberg says 'consistent' Force India eying 2014 stay at sharp end of grid
Perennial midfield outfit behind only Merc and Red Bull in standings
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 05/05/14 3:05pm
Nico Hulkenberg: Two fifth, and two sixth, places so far in 2014
Nico Hulkenberg believes the impressive consistency shown by Force India at the start of F1's new era means they can aim to maintain third place in the Constructors' Championship into the European season.
The Silverstone-based outfit, aided having access to the class-leading Mercedes V6 engine, have mixed it with the grid's bigger teams since the 2014 campaign got underway in Australia with their 54-point haul already only 23 points fewer than they collected in the whole of 2013, when they finished a joint-team best of sixth in the standings.
Hulkenberg sits fourth in the Drivers' Championship on 36 points having been one of only four drivers to score points in every race so far and the German admits he hadn't expected things to have started quite so well.
"I've enjoyed the first part of the year," he said.
"It's probably gone better than we were expecting after winter testing and it's good to keep picking up the points.
"I'm fourth with 36 points and I think that's a big achievement. The car has worked well everywhere and we've made the most of the opportunities. Consistency is surely one of our strengths at the moment."
Nonetheless, aware that the most intensive phase of F1's in-season development race will kick in from this weekend's Spanish GP, Hulkenberg says Force India will have to keep pushing on with improvements to the VJM07 if they are to hold position ahead of better-funded rivals.
"We're up in third in the championship and we want to stay there," he declared.
"The hard work over the winter is paying off, but we know that Formula 1 is always a development race and things can change from one weekend to the next. So we need to keep working hard to maintain our good position."
Team co-owner Vijay Mallya is optimistic the Circuit de Catalunya will play more to the strengths of the VJM07 than the Shanghai circuit did last time out, when Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished sixth and ninth respectively.
"It's encouraging that we have performed well across a wide range of circuits, so I'm optimistic that we can maintain our competitive form in Barcelona," the Indian said.
"China has never been an especially strong track for us, so to come away with ten points was a very good effort. We also expect our car to perform better in warmer conditions and there are some upcoming races that will play more to our strengths.
"At the same time we know that Formula 1 never stands still and Barcelona is always a pivotal moment in the development race, but I'm optimistic we can keep up our momentum."