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Force India eye fifth place in 2010

March 24, 2010 19:24 IST

Vijay MallyaForce India has set itself the target of finishing fifth -- just behind the Big Four -- in the 2010 Formula One Championship and the Bahrain Grand Prix is the right start for the Silverstone-based outfit, its chairman Vijay Mallya said.

Vitantonio Liuzzi's ninth place finish in Bahrain put Force India just behind the Big Four of McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes GP and Mallya said this should be the trend.

"It's what our objective was over the winter," Mallya said, ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

"We set ourselves an internal objective of finishing fifth in the World Championship. I know there's a long way to go, but it's a right start," Mallya said.

Liuzzi's ninth place finish in Bahrain earned the team two precious points and Adrian Sutil underlined the car's potential when he clocked the second fastest lap in the Sakhir circuit.

Mallya said the team has got a really fast car and they should now strive for consistency.

"We've got a solid car to start with and we've got a good base. Now it's about the development rate for the rest of the year," explained Mallya, also the team principal.

"It was fantastic for Tonio to have scored points for the first time since 2007. Adrian's second fastest lap means there's also some good for him to take out of the race too.

"I think we all acknowledge that last year our progress was sporadic -- on some tracks we were very quick, on others not so good -- so to come out this strongly is a really good step forward," he added.

Talking about Sunday's race, Mallya said, "With the new upgrades we have in the pipeline for Australia I can say with every faith that we can carry the momentum forward."

Talking about Formula One's popularity in the country, the liquor and aviation tycoon felt Karun Chandhok's entry would boost F1 viewership in India.

"Firstly they have an Indian team and now, in the form of Karun Chandhok, they have an Indian driver. The fans now have genuine interest to hold on to.

"People were aware of the big legends of the sport - Ferrari, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton - but for them to have tangible, identifiable properties is the difference between a minority sport and national interest.

"With the Indian Grand Prix now looking very promising it's really building. You've got these heroes and now you can go and watch them too. You can see the interest growing day by day, on our social networking site we've got more than one million followers," Mallya added.

He said test driver Paul di Resta will be driving one of the cars on Friday in Melbourne.

"Paul is a very good driver and has a lot of potential. But as a third driver the question is how he can use this potential if there's no testing in-season. This is a good solution all round, he can learn the car and the tracks in real time and therefore spend his simulator time helping to develop the car, which will be of real benefit to us," Mallya explained.

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