MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg has a modest ambition for this weekend's Formula One season opener in Australia: finishing a lap.
Hulkenberg has failed to finish a single lap of the race in three previous visits to the Albert Park circuit — twice crashing out and once retiring with a technical problem.
If he does manage to make it around the circuit on Sunday, Hulkenberg can look forward to a strong finish as Force India had a largely trouble-free preseason while many of its rivals have experienced major issues with the new turbo hybrid engines.
Hulkenberg, who has returned to Force India after a frustrating season at Sauber in 2013, said his sequence of goals are "to complete a race lap, then to finish, and hopefully get some points."
With points awarded to the top ten finishers, just making it through the 58 scheduled laps may be enough to fulfill that goal with the many reliability problems that emerged over preseason testing indicating that a lot of cars will not make it that far.
Of the three engine providers — along with Renault and Ferrari — it was the Mercedes-powered cars that appear to have best handled the difficult task of integrating the new V6 engines with reintroduced turbochargers and the expanded role of hybrid power.
Along with Force India, the other Mercedes-powered cars are the factory Mercedes team, which is the favorite to win on Sunday, plus McLaren and Williams.
The engine headaches, plus the cut in fuel allowance to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) per car — last year's average was around 160 kilograms (353 pounds)— mean that cars will not be able to race at full throttle for much of Sunday's race at Albert Park, which is a high fuel-consumption track.