Formula Renault 3.5 title favourite Antonio Felix da Costa believes he and Arden Caterham are in even better shape this year than they were at the end of 2012.
The Red Bull junior was the highest-scoring driver in the championship last year over the six weekends he contested following his mid-season replacement of Lewis Williamson. Da Costa won four of the final five races of the year, climbing to fourth in the championship, and he believes that he will be even stronger with an off-season testing program under his belt.
"I think we're in good shape," da Costa said ahead of this weekend's Monza season opener. "Testing has gone well. We made a small step forward. It is different this year because we've had the chance to try a few things with the car.
"There have been times where we have been looking for performance and times when we have not. And we have been getting the answers we were looking for which is good."
Da Costa has been a regular frontrunner in testing, and on the two days that he topped at Paul Ricard and Barcelona he set a blistering pace. However, he is still expecting this year's title battle to be a fierce one fought out by several drivers.
"We have been fast," he said. "Paul Ricard was a bit of a surprise for everyone – I nailed a pretty good lap there [to be half a second clear of the field]. The same with Barcelona on the first day. But when the others are in shape they are all there, and we are all close. There are five or six guys who can surprise, and we have to be ready for them.
"Everyone else is working, too. There are good drivers around and no one is sleeping. Last year was probably a wake-up call for everyone else."
2012 FR3.5 champion Robin Frijns said earlier this year that he expects da Costa and Kevin Magnussen to fight for the title this season.