Sergio Perez believes Force India needs a "good step" for the Formula 1 season opener, as the Mexican reckons the team is not currently leading the midfield pack.
Force India has elected to test with a simpler version of its 2018 car before introducing a big update package for the first race of the year in Australia.
The decision appears to have left the team - which finished fourth in last year's championship - behind some of its main rivals in pre-season testing.
While Perez acknowledges that Force India is not at the head of the midfield pack, he remains hopeful that the Melbourne upgrade and in-season development will put it back where it was last season.
"We definitely need a good step for the first race and hopefully that will come and we can be competitive from then onwards," said Perez at the end of the first day of the second test at Barcelona.
"What we are experiencing these days is probably irrelevant because once we go to race weekends track temperatures are going to be quite different to what we've had so far.
"Right now it's hard to judge where we are, but certainly I don't think we are leading the mid-pack at the moment, but I certainly always say it doesn't matter where we start, it's where you are in Abu Dhabi [at the end of the season].
"We will see in Melbourne where we are, once we bring our package, but I'm very hopeful of what we are going to have for Melbourne.
"It's too early to be disappointed or happy. We have to keep our heads down and working."
Perez's first day of running this week was compromised by an incident in the morning, when he went through a gravel trap and forced the team to remove the floor before returning to the track.
Despite admitting he completed just part of his programme, Perez was positive about the progress made.
"We managed to complete part of the programme and it's been a very positive day in terms of what we've done, what we've learned and just gathering data it's been positive today," he said.
"We tried two different [tyre] compounds, we completed a good programme. I can be pleased with my day. It's one more day to go for me before Melbourne.
"I'm a lot more confident with where we are now with the set-up of the car and everything else."