Sahara Force India drivers set for Melbourne test

Mumbai: Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are hoping to provide Sahara Force India a flying start in the 2012 F1 season-opening race at Melbourne next weekend and are pretty confident of improving as a team ahead of the longest ever (20-race) season.

While di Resta of Italian origin, would be racing for the Indian-owned franchise for the second year in running, Germany`s Hulkenberg would be representing the team for the first time.

The German is also staging a comeback in the glamorous arena of first-choice drivers after cooling his heels as a reserve/test driver last year for Sahara Force India.

"Obviously it was in ups and downs. I think if I look back, it was a very positive for first season of F1. More results have been realistic when you are up against the best guys in the world. I have learnt from it," said di Resta, who would turn 26 next month, about his 2011 season.

"This year I am a lot more confident and comfortable and focused to achieve, and that`s what is going to drive me to another level. In Sahara Force India we have targets and ambitions and the focus is to improve as a team," said the Scot, who finished 13th overall with 27 races in his debut season, ahead of the new series of races.

Hulkenberg, having got a chance to race again after his 14th-place finish (22 points) during his stint in 2010 with Williams, said since then he has got over the disappointment of not racing last year.

"Of course I was disappointed to lose my race seat at the end of 2010. The reason is that the performance (finished with 22 points from 14 races for Williams) was there...It was not bad, especially with the competition in the end, but I am over it and looking forward to 2012," said the 24-year-old German, at a media interaction on Friday.

"I was not happy with it because I won a race (pole position) and love what I am doing. I had quite a few points-scoring results. It's not nice to see standing on the sidelines and see others race. The wait has paid off and I am back," said Hulkenberg, who had lifted the GP2 in his debut season in 2009 to earn a driving spot for Williams.

Di Resta felt that the Indian-owned team had exceeded expectations towards the end of last season but it would be a big challenge to keep it up, though with the arrival of Sahara, which has picked up 42.5 per cent stake in the F1 team, things were looking brighter.

"As a team we punched way above our weight at the end of last year. Each year this team has moved up another notch and to maintain that would be an incredible challenge. I think everybody has the passion and determination at the moment given where we finished last year. I think the coming of the new investor in Sahara would lift this team to another level.”

"We are going to Melbourne as best prepared as we can with the tools we have. The target is to be among the points and finish where we left off last year. My focus is to just try and do the best possible job for Sahara Force India," the Scot driver added.

Force India finished sixth in the 2011 Constructors' Championship.

Di Resta also welcomed the news of a woman test driving in the upcoming season, but cautioned it would not be easy, as driving an F1 car was difficult even for men.

"I suppose if she has got the talent, why not ? It's quite a challenge because of the physical strengths required for F1 is difficult for a man. I definitely welcome it," he said referring to Maria de Villota, daughter of former Spanish F1 driver Emilio de Villota, set to test driver for Marussia's team in 2012.


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