Nico Hulkenberg insists that neither he nor his Force India team see his top two finish in second practice as a realistic reflection of their current pace.
The German had topped the times until the final minute of the rain-hit session, when he was displaced by Michael Schumacher. Hulkenberg, however, was eager to dispel the notion that Force India might be able to spring a surprise in Melbourne, explaining that the session had not been representative and that he was still expecting making Q3 to be a struggle.
"It is always nice to be quite high up on the sheet but you have to be realistic and stay grounded," he reflected. "That's not where I or the team see ourselves.
"Certainly we will try and always push as hard as we can but I don't think that is our expectation. It's just normal that times drop on a damp circuit with 24 cars running on it."
Pushed on whether Force India can spring a surprise – a view fostered by a seemingly strong preseason – Hulkenberg said: "Why do people say that? I see a lot of other strong teams out there at the same time, I'm not so sure about that comment. The car feels OK, there are no dramas – driveability and balance seem good – but ultimately what the performance is at the end of the day, I'm not sure about yet.
"I think [Q3] is possible, but we also have to really stretch ourselves. P2 wasn't entirely representative – people are on different fuel, different compounds, so it's not a fair comparison. I don't see us in that position."
Hulkenberg added that the missed running in second practice could serve to make the final session and qualifying a bit more of a lottery.
"[It could be] more difficult [tomorrow] because you are not as prepared as you would be with two dry runs," he explained. "Then you pretty much know what to expect. Now, it is potentially quite a difference. It could hurt some people, and help others."