Force India reckons that Giancarlo Fisichella's stunning drive in the Belgian Grand Prix is genuinely representative of its pace, as it sets its sight on a repeat performance in Italy next week.
Fisichella took Force India's first pole position at Spa-Francorchamps, and then battled with Kimi Raikkonen for victory – only losing out after KERS helped his Ferrari rival blast past him on a safety car restart. It is the consistent pace of the Force India during the race that has raised hopes about the potential of the car and, with Monza's low-downforce configuration set to play to the VJM 02's strengths once again, the team is not ruling out another front-running performance there.
"Why not?" team owner Vijay Mallya said when asked if the team would be as strong again in Monza. "We know that the car is quick – blindingly quick I would say. The sector times show it and I think the Monza track will suit us."
Force India's hopes of a strong showing at Monza will be boosted by an aerodynamic test that the team has scheduled for this week, which could prove critical in allowing it to hit the ground running in Italy. Chief operating officer Simon Roberts said, "Our car is quick in a straight line. I'd like to say that's what we intended, but it isn't. What we have tried to do is to put genuine upgrades on the car to create more downforce. The Valencia upgrade was very low on drag and was a good time to deliver that before Spa and Monza.
"We've got an aero test next week, so we'll hit the ground with more data at Monza. That makes it easier for the engineers and we should be able to set into it quicker."
He added: "Obviously, Monza is low drag. We've got some more wings to try there. We've got an aero test next week so unlike on Friday here, on Friday in Monza we know what the wings do so we should hit the ground strong.
"Then we've got some more stuff coming through at Singapore. We could have brought it forward a bit, but because it's pretty low drag as is Monza, we have left it. So there's stuff at the factory ready to go on the cars. It's not like that's it – we are still pushing."
Roberts is convinced Spa's showing will be a big boost for the team.
"This will lift everybody. It helps eveyone connected with us to feel good about this and will give us a bit more."
Mallya believes the result in Belgium was down to the efforts the team has delivered in introducing a raft of updates in recent races – having finally got the team in shape following his takeover in 2007.
"As you well know, this is my first real year in Formula 1 as Force India," he said. "Last year all we did was race the Spyker car because we bought the team at the end of 2007. In 2008 it was the same Spyker package, the same management team, the same engineering. And then we revamped everything and designed and built this car.
"I think ever since Australia, it's fair to say that we haven't been the laggards at the back. We've been a good midfield team and getting better all the time. We were confident about our Valencia upgrade and it's showed positive results with our strong double finish in 10th and 12th, and here in Spa we introduced yet another update.
"From free practice one, both Fisichella and Adrian were very happy with the car and the performance. We were once again hoping for points but then, when pole showed up, we were ecstatic, and clearly we are ecstatic with the podium finish."
Mallya had originally set his team the target of a podium finish by the end of next year as he set about rebuilding the team. However, despite achieving it early, he says he is in no rush to set some revised ambitions for the outfit.
"It's just too early," he said. "I'm just trying to assimilate it all. We will talk about targets later on."