Force India is targeting a major step forward with the upgrade package that it will introduce at the Mugello test on May 1-3 ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Silverstone-based squad has scored nine points so far this season but its outright pace has been disappointing. Deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that the team's slow start is down to pushing on with development late into the 2011 season in its successful pursuit of sixth in the championship, but is confident of catching up this year.
"I am hoping that Mugello puts us where we would have liked to have been for the start of the season," Fernley said. "We are a little bit behind because our focus was trying to secure sixth last season and we are about four or five races behind schedule.
"The plan is to come out of the first four races and not be to far away. Then we can bring the performance in through the season, so we are pretty much on target. We just need to get through China and Bahrain and then see where we go."
Fernley paid tribute to the efforts of drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, who have both had strong starts to the season. Di Resta scored points in both Australia and Malaysia, while Hulkenberg followed up a superb qualifying performance in Melbourne with his first points since the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix.
"We haven't given either driver the best of cars, yet," said Fernley. "They are showing their mettle to get us through and what we need to do is respond and give them the car that can challenge from Mugello onward.
"Both of them did well [in Malaysia], especially when you consider that it was Nico's first race for over year and it couldn't have been tougher for him. Given where we are in the development program, it was a sterling effort from everybody."
Fernley is not worried about being able to catch up teams that Force India is expecting to be ahead of in the championship, such as Sauber, which has scored heavily in the first two grands prix. He has no doubts that the team can still deliver on its target of fighting for a place in the top five in the Constructors' Championships.
"Absolutely," he said when asked if fifth was still on. "Don't forget that we were 26 points behind Sauber midway through last season. "I'm just hoping that our rate of development can be stronger. If we can come out of the first few races not too far adrift, then we can come back."