Force India needs a flawless run-in to the 2012 season to have a chance of beating Sauber to sixth in the Formula 1 constructors' championship, reckons Paul di Resta.
Despite Sauber's podiums and near-victories this year, the more consistent Force India had inched closer in the points in the first three races after the summer break.
But Kamui Kobayashi's third place for Sauber at Suzuka - on a day when Force India had to settle for seventh for Nico Hulkenberg as a clutch issue left di Resta 12th - meant the gap increased to 35 points with five grands prix to go.
"Mathematically it is realistic to take the fight to Sauber, but to get ahead of them we will need to be in the points at all the remaining races," said di Resta.
"Sauber were on the podium again in Japan, which makes our task even more difficult, but we are hopeful that the tracks coming up will be more suited to us - certainly compared to Suzuka.
"To beat them we will need to be on top of all the issues we had in Japan."
Hulkenberg was buoyed by the fact that Suzuka was expected to be a weak track for Force India, yet he reached Q3 then recovered from a gearbox-change penalty that left him 15th on the grid to chase Kimi Raikkonen's sixth-placed Lotus home.
"Suzuka was the track we were most worried about in the final part of the year and in the end we did OK," said Hulkenberg.
"I think compared to the start of the year we probably understand the car a lot better and that's helping us find more performance, and improve our race pace."
Team boss Vijay Mallya reiterated his belief that getting a Force India on the podium before the end of the season could make all the difference.
"Our car will suit some tracks more than others, but as long as we keep picking up the points we can keep the pressure on the teams around us," he said.
"Korea should be good for us and hopefully Abu Dhabi and India.
"A podium has been goal since the start of the year. It's what we need if we are to get closer to sixth in the championship.
"We've got two very competitive drivers and they've shown already that either one of them is capable of doing it under the right conditions."