The Silverstone-based outfit finished the 2013 season in sixth place. They held on to fifth in the standings early in the year but soon slipped back behind McLaren after changes were made to the tyre construction by Pirelli.
The team will run with an all-new driver pairing next year, with Nico Hulkenberg returning to the team after a brief stint at Sauber. He will be joined by Sergio Perez after he was dropped by McLaren after just one season.
Fernley believes the success of the team will hinge on the competitiveness of the Mercedes V6 Turbo power-unit, but is optimistic they can make steps forward in 2014. “It has to be higher next year,” Fernley told AUTOSPORT. “If we have made the right decision on the powertrain, and we won’t know that until we start running, we have got to be looking at podiums and at least fifth place next year. That will be the target.
“Obviously, we were the first [customer] team to sign our engine deal, which has been in place in March and we were probably one of the first teams to switch over to the 2014 design, so we are very optimistic.”
He is expecting car aerodynamics to be less important next season, as the new power-units take centre stage. “The biggest differentiator will be the power unit, so what you need is a chassis that is going to be of good quality, but I don’t think it is going to be as critical on the aero as in recent years.
“That will change as time goes on, but certainly in the first half of next year and possibly all of next year, it’s going to be all about the power units. There are so many variables with reliability, with ERS [energy recovery systems], with fuel-flow systems.
“Somebody is going to get it right, someone is going to get it wrong and what you don’t know is which camp you are in. If we are in the camp that has got it right, then we are on the right track.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic