Force India wary of Toro Rosso drivers' improvement

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Otmar Szafnauer expects both Toro Rosso drivers to achieve a big step forward in their second F1 campaign, and see them as a potential threat for Force India.

Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz formed a successful all-rookie pairing at Faenza last year, quickly establishing themselves as regular Q3 contenders in qualifying and points scorers during the races.

While Force India amassed twice as many points as Toro Rosso in 2015, Szafnauer insists Red Bull's junior outfit will be force a to reckoned with this year.

“Toro Rosso will have their drivers for a second year – you learn a lot on your first year –, so they will be competitive,” the Force India chief operating officer told reporters in Barcelona.

“From your first and second year, you gain more from your eighth to ninth year. There is more to learn.

“They will have a new [Ferrari] power unit – I don’t know whether that’s better or worse – but that’s new. They also did a great job with their car last year – they had a quick car so they will tough.”

Force India is coming off its best season to date with a fifth-place finish in the Constructors’ championship. Szafnauer says repeating a similar performance will be no easy feat but admits his team cannot afford to settle for a lower target.

“Renaut are going to be spending money, I saw they are hiring 160 people. I don’t know how quickly they will start moving up but they are going to be competing with us.

“And Red Bull, they are still very good. So, it will be tough but our aim at least is to finish fifth – we can’ tell the shareholders that our objective is to do worse than the year before. If all goes well, a good stretch objective for us is to be fourth.”

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