Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer expects his team to be in for a "big task" in retaining their status as the fourth best team in the constructor rankings, but insists they are 'fighting' as much as possible with the midfield set to be much closer this campaign.
Despite having one of the lowest outlays of any team on the grid, Force India have secured two consecutive fourth-place finishes in the constructor rankings in 2016 and 2017, beating the likes of more established teams like McLaren and Williams.
They have not got off to the best of starts to the 2018 season, though, as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished outside the points in the Australia Grand Prix in positions 11th and 12th. The performance in Melbourne was the worst in nine years as the team have not finished outside the points in that GP since 2009.
Szafnauer is not panicking yet, but did recognise that the grid will be much tighter this seasons with many teams having many improvements in the off-season.
"Testing showed us that the midfield has closed up considerably, so there were no big shocks in Melbourne," the Force India chief said.
"I think the points will be spread among the teams more evenly this year and retaining fourth place is going to be a big task. But we’ve only had one race and things can change very quickly in Formula 1.
"The development race is only just beginning and it’s where you end the season that counts. Last year we out-developed the teams around us and we have to do the same this year.
"Our goal is to defend our fourth place and we will be fighting hard to get back up there."
Szafnauer went on to reveal that the team is set to introduce a new aspect to the car in Bahrain, making it completely different to the design used in testing.
"It’s business as usual in terms of developing the car. We’ve got a new front wing coming for Bahrain, which will complement the upgrades we introduced in Melbourne," he continued.
"The car we have now is totally different from the spec we used during testing and we’re still on a learning curve. There is huge development potential with this new aerodynamic platform and we have things in the pipeline, which will bring performance steps in the first quarter of the season."
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