Barcelona, Feb 22 (IANS) Formula 1 team Force India marked the beginning of the 2016 season as their drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez pulled the covers off the VJM09 car here on Monday.

They were joined by the team’s development driver Alfonso Celis, posing for photos in front of the media ahead of the start of the team’s winter testing programme.

The VJM09 has evolved by building on the strengths of the 2015 b-spec chassis that helped the team secure fifth place in the constructors’ championship last year.

“You can say the b-spec car from last year formed a basis on which to build our 2016 one. We were in a situation in which the performance on track was very good and in which the data we were getting correlated well to what we were expecting, so we knew we could continue to develop on a solid platform,” said the team’s technical director Andrew Green.

“With the regulations likely to change for 2017, it didn’t really seem like an efficient use of our resources to start from scratch on a project that would have such a limited lifetime.”

The VJM09 retains the distinctive black and silver livery introduced last year.

“The colours reflect our partners and heritage. Although I’m biased, I think our car is one of the best looking on the grid and that’s why I wanted to keep a consistent look for 2016. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” team principal Vijay Mallya explained.

Expectations from the VJM09 are high as the team looks to build on its best ever performance last year.

“I want us to begin 2016 in the same way that we ended 2015. Our technical team is excited about the progress we have made over the winter and there’s every reason to believe we can stay at the front of the midfield battle,” added Mallya.

The VJM09 continues to carry a number of blue-chip names with prominent branding from TelCel, Claro and NEC, underlining the commercial appeal of the team. Logos from financial services firm Banamex have been added to the leading edge of the side pod while partnerships with Inter, Quaker State and Hype have also been extended.

The team’s long-standing association with Kingfisher and Royal Challenge continues.

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