LONDON, July 1 (Reuters) - Force India are beginning to believe they could finish the Formula One season ahead of McLaren after adding more points to their tally at Sunday's British Grand Prix.
The Silverstone-based team, who operate on a far smaller budget than the sport's second most successful team in terms of race wins, now have 59 points to McLaren's 37 after eight of the season's 19 races.
Force India had both their cars in the points at a controversial Silverstone race punctuated by tyre failures, with German driver Adrian Sutil seventh and Britain's Paul Di Resta ninth, while McLaren drew a blank for the second race in a row.
"We have a gap of 22 points...all they need is one race win and that will wipe out the entire deficit," Mallya told reporters.
"So I am going to be cautiously optimistic while saying that I want to remain ahead of McLaren and hang on to fifth place in the constructors' championship.
"If we keep scoring points and they don't come up with something dramatic like a race win, we should be able to keep our nose ahead of them," added the Indian liquor baron.
McLaren have not finished higher than fifth so far this season and are struggling to get their car up to speed after ending last year with Jenson Button winning in Brazil.
With major rule changes and a new V6 engine coming next year, McLaren have already started switching resources to making sure the 2014 car is competitive from the outset.
"We are at a point where we've got to ensure that we are in a competitive situation next year so we are also now earlier than usual putting a lot more resource and effort on to next year's programme," McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh said at the weekend.
McLaren's Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, backed the approach.
"We will still be developing the car but I think it's great that we've got more people working on next year's car," he told reporters.
"Our main aim is to win the world championship and that is something we cannot do this year...so I think it's a good idea that we are concentrating a little but more on next year."
Mallya said that change of focus could play to Force India's advantage.
"If McLaren are not focusing on developing this car further, and we are doing what we are doing and continue to do, then there is no reason why we should not keep our nose ahead.
"If they want to focus on the 2014 car then that gives everybody a chance." (Editing by John Mehaffey)