Baku, December 9, AZERTAC
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley expects to see a "phenomenal" rate of development as F1 teams get to grips with the new rules next season, according to motorsport.com.
Fernley says his team is optimistic that it will have a good package at the start of the season, but concedes that it won't be easy to match the big teams.
"I'm very optimistic for next year," Fernley told Motorsport.com. "I think our technical team has proven to be very competent, and I see no reason why they can't do a very good job in 2017.
"Until we know what other people have got it's not possible to judge, but they are optimistic that they are producing a good design.
"The launch cars will obviously give us some idea of where everybody is. Where the bigger teams have the advantage over the independent teams is that they will be able to start flowing their upgrades through very quickly. We won't have the resource to do it quite as quickly.
"But hopefully the steps that we'll take will be measured and we'll be able to stay with it, more or less. We mustn't underestimate the speed of development of the '17 cars. It will be phenomenal, certainly in the first three or four months of the season.
"I think that it will be very tight next year. Probably people like Williams, McLaren, Force India, probably Toro Rosso, I think all of us will be looking at the fourth place fight.
"And depending how the three big ones go, if one of them has made an error somewhere, they'll be with us."
Fernley is adamant that the team didn't overcommit to the 2016 car in order to guarantee that it would be beat Williams to fourth place, and thus development for next year was not compromised.
"We didn't put anything into the 2016 car beyond what we'd already committed to. The '16 programme has not compromised the '17 programme. We were very clear about when we needed to switch over.
"We've been working on next year's car for some time. A lot of the performance that came out of the '16 car was latent, and we knew it was there. It was just a case of pulling it through.
"In some ways I'm quite excited about '17, because one of the good things that we did in terms of being able to get things on a level playing field is that we brought in the current wind tunnel and CFD limitations.
"While we still have a disadvantage because of the investment that the bigger teams have made in their wind tunnels, it's the closest it's ever been to more level playing field. So you only have a certain amount of time that you can operate with."