Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer says the team’s 2018 car must have “podium potential” if it is going to prevent the threat from rival outfits this season.

Despite failing to appear on the rostrum across the entire season for the first time since 2013, the Silverstone-based squad retained fourth-place in the constructors’ championship for the second year running.

Szafnauer cites McLaren, Renault and Williams as the team’s major contenders this year, with all of them making significant changes to boost their competitiveness, and says it will need to make a big leap forward in performance to ward off their challenge.

“For us, it would be great if we could develop the car to such a point where we’ve got good potential for a few podiums,” Szafnauer told RACER.

“And if we achieve that and come closer to third but maintain fourth, I think that would be an objective that would be a big success for Force India.

“With McLaren and their new engine partner in Renault making strides, and Renault themselves pouring even more resources in and working hard to catch up, as well as Williams with Paddy Lowe and their new head of aero [Dirk de Beer], having their first car, it will be difficult for us to beat all three of those teams.

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“If we do then I think we’ve got a good shot at finishing fourth, and to beat them, I think our car needs to have podium potential. So that’s a good objective, and that’s what we will set out to do.”

Force India comfortably finished ahead of its rivals in 2017, with 104 points more than next best placed Williams. Szafnauer, however, expects the competition will be even closer this season.

“That is actually one of the threats to us, the fact that McLaren have made those changes including going to a Renault powertrain,” he added.

“I think the other threat is the fact that Renault themselves are not standing still, and have got 600-700 employees now. They’re a big team with a lot of resources, and the parent company themselves are putting in a lot of resource to make sure that the Formula 1 team is successful.

“Again, Williams have got great infrastructure, good people and this will be Paddy Lowe and their new head of aero’s first car. So that all could come good and also be a threat to us. The competition where we stand will be even more difficult, and it will be even more competitive this year.”