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Nico Hulkenberg downplays Friday showing after strong start in Australia

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 2012Nico Hulkenberg insists that neither he nor his Force India team see his top two finish in second practice as a realistic reflection of their current pace.

The German had topped the timesheets until the final minute of the rain-hit session, when he was displaced by Michael Schumacher.

Hulkenberg however was keen to dispel the notion that Force India might be able to spring a surprise in Melbourne, explaining that the session had not been representative - and that he was still expecting making Q3 to be a struggle.

"It is always nice to be quite high up on the sheet but you have to be realistic and stay grounded," he reflected. "That's not where I or the team see ourselves.

"Certainly we will try and always push as hard as I can but I don't think that is our expectation. It's just normal that times drop on a damp circuit with 24 cars running on it."

Pushed on whether Force India can spring a surprise - a view fostered by a seemingly strong pre-season Hulkenberg said: "Why do people say that? I see a lot of other strong teams out there at the same time, I'm not so sure about that comment.

"The car feels quite okay, there are no dramas driveability and balance seem good but ultimately what the performance is at the end of the day I'm not sure about yet.

"I think [Q3] is possible, but we also have to really stretch ourselves. P2 wasn't entirely representative people are on different fuel, different compounds, so it's not a fair comparison. I don't see us in that position."

Hulkenberg added that the missed running in second practice could serve to make the final session and qualifying a bit more of a lottery.

"[It could be] more difficult [tomorrow] because you are not as prepared as you would be with two dry runs," he explained. "Then you pretty much know what to expect.

"Now it is potentially quite a difference. It could hurt some people, and help others."

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