March 27, 2012 / 3:32 PM / in 7 years

Di Resta encouraged by Perez podium

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Paul Di Resta believes Force India could match Sergio Perez’s surprising Malaysian Grand Prix podium if circumstances go their way this season.

Force India Formula One driver Paul di Resta of Britain drives during the third practice session of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Chong

Perez finished second for Sauber at rain-lashed Sepang on Sunday to become the first Mexican driver in 41 years on the Formula One podium. He could have won had he not run wide with five laps to go while chasing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Force India have only once finished in the top three, when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, but Di Resta felt another visit was in the realms of possibility for his team.

“I don’t think you can rule that out,” the Scot told reporters at the Buddh International Circuit on the outskirts of Delhi.

“You have to be ready for that (the opportunity of a podium), should that happen. It’s going to be a massive task and a difficult one,” said the driver who turns 26 next month.

“You want it to happen, you go and prepare yourself for the weekend, if you can. We only saw this weekend what Sauber achieved, and Perez (achieved).

“We have to believe that it can happen to us, if every circumstance goes the right way.”

Di Resta has made a strong start to the season, collecting seven points from two races, while team mate Nico Hulkenberg managed a couple from his ninth place finish in Malaysia.

Di Resta identified Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso as Force India’s chief midfield rivals and said was looking forward to the new package his team would introduce before the series shifts to Europe in May.

As much a boost for the Silverstone-based team would be the healthy competition between their drivers, said Hulkenberg.

“I don’t get along with Paul at all, we hate each other,” the 24-year-old German joked before turning serious. “We both are pretty hungry for success. (It’s the) early stage of our Formula One career.

“We are pushing each other very hard on the circuit for our own good and for the team’s good. We will keep our head down, trying to make the car faster, ourselves faster.

“To come away with seventh and ninth (positions) in Malaysia was a huge success, looking from where we started and in qualifying, things didn’t look bright,” said Hulkenberg.

“The speed is not where we want it to be at the moment but it’s early days in the season with only two weekends, 18 more to go. So there are plenty of opportunities to develop the car, make the car faster and maximise our performance from here.”

Editing by Alan Baldwin

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