sport

Mallya keen to keep momentum

Vijay Mallya feels Force India are now under scrutiny as they begin to challenge the established front-runners in Formula One.

For the second successive race - Brazil at the end of last season and again in Australia on Sunday - a Force India led the way on merit, with the team's strategy playing a key role.

For Adrian Sutil, it was a special moment at Melbourne's Albert Park as it was the first time in his career he found himself front-running.

Come the end, Sutil and team-mate Paul Di Resta finished seventh and eighth - by far and away Force India's best result in the opening grand prix.

Given the Silverstone-based marque have generally been slow out of the blocks at the start of a campaign, co-owner and team principal Mallya is now looking for the team to gather momentum going into Sunday's second round in Malaysia.

"Last weekend's race in Melbourne was a great demonstration of how far the team has come lately," Mallya said.

"To race against the established front-runners on merit shows the quality of our car, our driver line-up and of the work everyone in the team is producing every day, whether at the factory or at the circuit.

"We have led the last two races and hopefully soon we will have a special result to repay all that effort.

"But with improved results come increased responsibilities: the whole world of Formula One - our rivals, the media and the fans - now look at us as a competitor for points at every race.

"It is our duty to sustain this scrutiny by going out every day and performing to our best to keep challenging the top teams in the world.

"The championship is just at the beginning, and it is important not to get carried away with enthusiasm.

"We will need to channel this positive energy into consistently good performances and continue to improve. We are on a good road, and we must all keep progressing."

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley feels the team is "in no-man's land" at present, although he maintains that is not a bad position to be in.

Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari have the edge, with Mercedes tucked in just behind, while McLaren find themselves languishing in midfield after starting the campaign on the wrong foot with their car.

Fernley is expecting that situation to change, so it is a case of his team making hay while the sun shines.

"McLaren will come back, so we have to capitalise while we can. It's not going to last for a long time," Fernley said.

"Once we've done that hopefully then we'll have a little bit of a buffer because it will then be hard for the midfield teams - once McLaren are back in their normal slot - to get points this year.

"I think it will be a lot tougher than it was last year.

"So right now we're in no-man's land to a certain degree. We're better, but we're not good enough.

"What has happened is the top teams have moved away a little, but we've moved up and closed the gap."